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High School Student-Led, On-Campus Voter Reg & Education Laws

As of this writing (November 2014), 10 states have laws to enable 17-year olds to pre-register, or in some cases, to enable students to lead peer-to-peer, campus-based voter registration efforts. See here: Several states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas – now allow 17-year-olds to pre-register. In Hawaii, 16-year-olds may pre-register so that their voter status is automatically activated when they turn 18. Wisconsin, according to a report from New America Foundation, reaches out to young voters through a state law establishing at every high school a “registration deputy,” filled by a volunteering teacher or staff member. The article further discusses how it works in California: The statute also reiterates that the last two full weeks in the months of April and September – now known as “high school voter weeks” – be designated as “high school voter education weeks,” and it authorizes each school administrator to name one or more students as voter outreach coordinators to encourage student registration during that time. “We know that when young people experience the importance of voting and a culture of civic engagement in high school, they are much more likely to be active voters once they are eligible,” Secretary of State Debra Bowen said in a statement last week. “We also know peer-to-peer education is one of the most effective ways to develop students’ interest in democracy, and we’ve seen wonderful examples of it throughout the state.” Getting the word out to the state’s nearly 2,000 schools with grades 9 to 12, however, may be the more difficult task. And, even then, planning and coordinating a school-wide voter registration event takes a willing administrator and an active student council to see it through. If your state does NOT yet have a law like this, maybe it’s time to work toward one. The way to combat voter suppression and caging is to make sure we always have a new crop of freshly registered voters who are conversant in civics and understand all aspects of the democratic process. Additional resources and reports: Project Vote has great sample legislation, research, and recommended practices for putting into place high school voter registration programs. League of Women Voters has a comprehensive toolkit and high school voter registration training manual, current as of 2013. Fair Vote has an abundance of resources in general and a very interesting section on the ability of state-recognized parties to permit 17 year olds to participate in partisan primaries and caucuses.

November 7, 2014 November 8, 2014 high school voter registration

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