Students Turned Out to Vote Despite Barriers and Long Lines

Washington, DC – Yesterday, college students across the country turned out to vote in record numbers despite barriers they faced as first-time voters, confusing voter ID laws, and long lines. Campus Vote Project, a campaign of Fair Elections Legal Network, has spent the past year providing resources to student organizations, college administrators and other civic organizations to help get students to the polls. As a result, young people under 30 made up 19% of the electorate this year, a percentage point higher than 2008. On several college campuses, there were record early vote and Election Day turnout among students, proving that when you provide students the information they need and help them register to vote, they will turn out.

“College students face challenges that other voters do not face. For many students, this election was their first time voting. The process can seem intimidating, especially when they do not have the information they need to register and vote,” said Robert Brandon, president of the Fair Elections Legal Network. “Additionally, over the past two years some legislatures have passed voter ID laws that exclude or limit the use of student IDs to vote or passed laws aimed directly at limiting student voting. And some public officials have used tactics to intimidate and discourage college students from voting in their college community even though they have a right to vote there. Instead of discouraging students to vote, we should encourage them to participate and take pride in their civic duty as an American to vote.”

The Campus Vote Project worked to improve student turnout through:

  •  trainings, webinars, guides, and coordination with election officials to clarify a student’s right to register in their campus communities if they so choose;
  • working with college registrars and vice presidents of student affairs and student government to send emails to students with information on how to check their registration status, find their polling site and determine what ID is needed;
  • producing state student voting guides and school hosted websites with student voting information and registration tools;
  • running ads on more that forty college campuses and producing palm cards to ensure students had the right voting information.

This past year, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania passed voter ID laws that included student IDs in the list of acceptable IDs that can be used to vote at the polls. However, the requirements for student IDs left exactly zero students in Wisconsin with the ability to use their student IDs to vote when the law was passed. In Pennsylvania, only 17 percent of schools produced and 16 percent of students possessed eligible IDs. Fortunately, state courts put both laws on hold this year.

Some states have made it easier for students to vote by allowing ID that the college or university can provide. In North Carolina, the Campus Vote Project worked with administrators at several colleges and universities for the schools to encourage them to provide proof of on-campus residency for student use during one-stop early voting. As a result this form of same day registration and early voting saw dramatic increases for student participation. In Ohio, the Campus Vote Project worked with 20 colleges and universities to distribute zero balance utility bills for dorm residents at private colleges and letters for all students at public schools that they could use as voter ID on Election Day.

Besides ID, students need to have the correct information to vote. Campus Vote Project worked with colleges and universities and student organizations in 18 states from Ohio to North Carolina and Florida to Pennsylvania to provide student voting guides, online registration widgets, get out the vote events, and websites with registration and voting information that provided information to students on when, where, and what ID they need to vote. This is critical to encourage students to cast their vote.

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