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League of Women Voters finds room for improvement in high school voter registration

Thursday, August 16, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Texas statute requires all high schools to provide eligible students with the opportunity to register to vote twice a year, and every year, the League of Women Voters conducts a survey to check up on how high schools are complying with this law. According to a press release, this year’s survey found 73 percent of the schools that responded to the survey to be in compliance. Some schools offer voter registration opportunities once a year (16.4 percent), and only about 3 percent reported offering no voter registration opportunities to students at all. The league’s study results contrast with numbers recently released by the Texas Civil Rights Project that found only 34 percent of schools in compliance. The release does offer the caveat that the responses “included a high number of schools with a student population under 500”; therefore, the responses only provide a snapshot of schools’ voter registration efforts throughout the state. However, the release also notes that registration of high schoolers can be hard to track because sometimes schools don’t use the special high school voter registration form provided by the Texas Secretary of State, which makes the registration efforts not as readily visible. In fact, 37 percent of respondents to the league’s survey got their registration forms from their county voter registrar. Almost 60 percent of the schools that register students use a high school deputy registrar – usually the principal or a social studies/government teacher – and 33.9 percent of schools use county-certified staff as voluntary deputy registrars, the league found. Thirty-six percent rely on outside organizations, which is more common in larger schools. The league has requested for the SOS to coordinate with counties to track registration forms and also increase its communication with schools regarding important registration and election dates. Respondents had a number of suggestions to get the number of registered students up, including “offering voter registration in class with lessons and curriculum, providing online voter registration (not currently available in Texas), emphasizing the importance of voter registration and providing transportation to vote.” The league also has continued its outreach efforts by creating a six-module resource at BeATexasVoter.org to educate and inspire young would-be voters with information and activities to reinforce the instruction.

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