How Colleges and Universities Can Provide Voting Resources

Every election cycle, tens of thousands of college students face the same hurdle. They must decide not only how to vote but also where to cast their ballot. Out-of-state students face even more challenges, including a lack of access to polling locations, new voting laws, and other restrictions that can impede them from exercising their right to vote.

Admittedly, colleges and universities can do little to address state-level voting restrictions that negatively impact their students. However, these pillars of higher education can empower their students to get out the vote by fulfilling their statutory obligations and providing access to additional voting resources.

Below, we will examine three ways that state legislation is impeding college voters. We will also highlight an oft-overlooked statutory obligation of colleges and universities regarding student voting. You can use these insights to proactively support your students’ right to vote.

3 Student Voting Barriers Created by State Legislation

Each state has its own administrative and legal requirements governing voter registration processes. While these regulations are meant to maintain election integrity, some states have seemingly gone out of their way to impede out-of-state students’ ability to cast a ballot.

Here are a few state-level regulations that act as barricades to college student voting:

  1. Voter Purge Programs

Voter purge programs are designed to periodically remove registered voters from state logs. Each state has its own regulations for when and how purges are conducted. Naturally, voters are removed from registration rolls when they pass away or move out of state. However, in some jurisdictions, voters will be removed from registration databases if they neglect to vote in consecutive elections.

Due to the imperfect methods by which purges are conducted, individuals with the same birth date and name may be mistakenly removed from registration rolls. Unfortunately, some people don’t find out that they have been purged until election day.

  1. Gerrymandering

Every decade, states redraw congressional districts following the census to equalize populations. This process also makes each district more representative of the state’s population, or at least it is supposed to.

However, the party that is in power will often try to draw districts in a way that weakens the impact of opposing voters. This is known as gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering often targets underrepresented voters. For instance, during the 2018 midterms, North Carolina A&T State University, the largest historically black college or university (HBCU) in the nation, was divided into two congressional districts to lessen the influence of student voters living on campus.

Due to gerrymandering, students living in dorms on the south side of the campus voted in a different district than those living on the north side of the campus.

  1. ID Requirements and Limited Polling Access

Several states have instituted new personal identification requirements over the last few years. Some of these new laws are quite reasonable, whereas others have a serious impact on college students’ ability to cast a ballot.

For instance, Wisconsin recently altered the criteria for acceptable student identification cards. Prior to the change, virtually any college-issued student ID card was acceptable. After the new laws went into effect, students were required to have an ID with a two-year expiration date and signature.

The Often-Overlooked Voter Registration Requirements in the Higher Education Act of 1965 

The Higher Education Act of 1965 included a multitude of provisions designed to promote accessibility and equity at colleges and universities throughout the nation. This landmark act also included provisions designed to ensure that colleges and universities support their students’ right to vote.

Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, colleges are required to provide students with voter registration forms. Additionally, they are mandated to make voter registration available. By fulfilling this statutory obligation, colleges and universities can help their out-of-state students meet registration requirements and participate in elections.

How Colleges and Universities Can Help Students Get Out the Vote

Colleges and universities are statutorily obligated to provide students with voter registration forms. However, simply providing these documents to students is not enough. Institutions of higher learning should proactively educate out-of-state students on potentially restrictive voter registration laws and provide practical tips for meeting these requirements.

Additionally, institutions located in states that have enacted more stringent ID requirements should modify their student identification cards to align with these new laws. Providing students with compliant IDs would help them overcome one major voting barrier and make it easier for them to participate in future elections.

Engage College Populations with Aristotle 

By fulfilling their statutory obligations, colleges and universities can help their students exercise their right to vote. However, campaign planners, nonprofits, political action committees, and other entities that have a desire to influence the outcome of elections also need to do their part to empower college voters.

If you want to mobilize college populations this election cycle, Aristotle can help. As an award-winning data provider, we connect our clients with the raw data they need to guide decision-making and achieve their political goals. Our database includes hundreds of millions of consumer and voter files.

Additionally, we have a new mover file that documents the more than one million monthly moves in the U.S.

You can use the insights gleaned from our political data to identify college voters within your target regions. You can then connect with these individuals at scale, educate them on important issues, and encourage them to make their voice heard by casting a ballot on election day.

To learn more about how Aristotle can support your political initiative, contact us.

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