WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced a bill to lower the barriers to voting for millions of college students. Booker and Krishnamoorthi joined dozens of student leaders from around the country to announce the bill – called the Help Students Vote Act – earlier today at a press conference at the Capitol.
The Help Students Vote Act would allow for federal guidance to institutions of higher education in order to ensure their students have the resources they need to register to vote. Historically, young adults have voted at the lowest rates of any age group in U.S. elections and this bill is designed to ease some of the unique barriers college students face when registering to vote and voting.
“Some of the greatest movements in history have been driven by young people,” Sen. Booker said. “From the Freedom Riders of the 1960s to the Vietnam War protesters of the 1970s to the most recent student activism sweeping the country around gun violence – our nation’s young people have continuously pushed our country to a better, more just, and more progressive future.”
“Unfortunately, young people today face more barriers than they should when trying to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Our bill helps alleviate some of the confusion and anxiety college students have about voting by adding much-needed federal guidance on how colleges and universities can ensure their students have the resources they need to register to vote and vote.”
"The right to vote is part of the bedrock of American democracy,” Sen. Durbin said. “Our government’s decisions affect all Americans, young and old. Yet voter participation remains low among young adults. This bill will help ensure that students at colleges and universities across the country will have increased opportunities to register to vote and participate in our democratic process.”
“When students begin college each year, often having never voted or even registered, they frequently lack the institutional support and resources to navigate the voting process,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi said. “We need to do everything we can to ensure that all Americans have access to the ballot box and this legislation will help engage hundreds of thousands more young Americans in our democracy. I’m proud to join Senator Booker in introducing our bill to bring new energy to our public institutions, strengthen our communities, and enrich our public discourse by helping students vote.”
Currently, Title IV of the Higher Education Act mandates that institutions of higher education make a “good-faith effort” to distribute voter registration forms to students. However, this language is ambiguous and does not include an enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance.
The Help Students Vote Act would require institutions of higher education to make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to each student at least twice a year by:
Sending an email twice a year, and no less than 30 days before voter registration deadlines for federal and state elections, with links to voter registration information.
Designating a staff member or office as the “Campus Vote Coordinator” to answer student questions about voter registration.
The Help Students Vote Act would also:
Authorize Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grants to be awarded to institutions of higher education that greatly exceed the requirements to promote political engagement.
Authorize the Attorney General to empower the appropriate state law enforcement officer to commence a civil action if an institution engages in a pattern of violating this law.
Provides a private right of action for individuals or groups who are aggrieved by an institution that has engaged in a pattern of violating this law.
The Help Students Vote Act has been endorsed by more than 60 organizations, including:
ACPA-College Student Educators International
Alliance for Youth Action
American Political Science Association
Andrew Goodman Foundation
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
Associated Students of Madison
Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS)
Association of Young Americans
Black Girls Vote
Campus Vote Project
Center for American Progress Action
Center for Civic Justice at Stony Brook University
Dick Simpson, Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago
and former Chicago Alderman
Fair Elections Center
Feminist Majority Foundation
Iowa Campus Compact
Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University
LeadMN - College Students Connecting for Change
Macalester Student Choices - Student Voices
Mi Familia Vota Education Fund
Mi Familia Vota Texas
Minnesota Student Association (MSA)
MOVE San Antonio
National Education Association
National Voter Corps
New Era Colorado
New Georgia Project
Ohio Campus Compact
Ohio Student Association
One Wisconsin Institute
Oregon Student Association
Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions
People Demanding Action
PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)
Rock the Vote
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Spread The Vote
The Bus Project
The Century Foundation
The Democracy Commitment
Turn Up Turnout (University of Michigan)
Young People For