Campus Vote Project Supports U.S. Department of Education's Latest "Dear Colleague" Letter
U.S. Department of Education Encourages Colleges & Universities to Promote Civic Engagement Ahead of 2022 Elections
As an organization we have high praises for the new Dear Colleague letter from the U.S. Department of Education to colleges and universities, emphasizing their responsibilities to promote students’ participation in the electoral process and sharing resources to help students volunteer as poll workers and ensure their ballots count in this year’s elections. A recent study showed that nearly 6.6 million students nationwide were impacted by a lack of early voting options and in-person polling locations on campuses during the 2020 election.
“The fact that a vast majority of colleges lack accessible polling places and in-person voting options should concern everyone,” said Mike Burns, National Director. “Colleges and universities have a variety of tools available to ensure their students can participate in our elections, but there is still more work to be done to make this a reality. And with young voters making up the most diverse generation our country has ever seen, this is a significant racial justice issue facing our nation. I’m grateful to see the Biden administration proactively pushing campuses to prepare for this year’s midterm elections by focusing on the unique needs of students.”
The letter encourages post-secondary institutions to make preparations to best support student voting in the 2022 midterm elections, citing the Higher Education Act, which requires these campuses to make a “good faith effort” to distribute mail voter registration forms and make them widely available to students on campus. It also confirms that Federal Work Study funds can be used to compensate students working on nonpartisan voter registration on- or off-campus through the institution. The letter also calls on institutions to live up to their civic missions, highlighting resources for campuses to serve their students and their whole community by providing campus facilities for voting sites and recruiting campus members to serve as poll workers.
“It took tremendous efforts to preserve and even expand access to voting during the global pandemic and 2020 elections, and we saw from our programs that colleges, universities and students played a large role in answering that call and establishing and working voting sites,” said Burns. “We are continuing that work this year, including expanding our effort to get voting sites on-campus by leading MTV’s Early Voting is Easier Campus Challenge. We look forward to institutions rising to the moment in response to this letter.”