Ensure High Schools Are Registering Students to Vote
Twice a year, high school principals must offer students the chance to register to vote, if they are 18 or will turn 18 that school year. It’s a state law. Nevertheless, a 2019 report released by the Texas Civil Rights Project, found only 38 percent of public high schools in Texas with 20 or more seniors either requested registration forms from the Secretary of State or conducted a voter registration drive. (1)
Registering high schoolers is crucial in engaging students in the political process and increasing voter turnout among young people across the state. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy and we owe it to our students to help them become active participants in their communities through voting as early in life as possible. Registering students to vote on their high school campuses is a giant step in the right direction.
Texas high school principals have a duty to make sure their students have an opportunity to register to vote. To make this happen, Texas law designates principals as a special kind of voter registrar – a high school deputy registrar (HSDR). HSDRs must distribute voter registration (“VR”) forms at least twice each academic year to all students who are 18 or who will turn 18 by the next election.
TCRP’s research found that significant numbers of school administrators are unaware of their duties to register high school students who are or will be 18 years of age or older during that semester. Moreover, many who have heard about this state law do not understand the exact requirements.
Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) has published a guide for educators and members of the community to ensure we are carrying out this law. You can download the guide at this link. With the information in this brochure, principals and community leaders can help increase awareness of the law and compliance across the state.
TCRP advises "If you are not the HSDR, you can still help register students – or any other citizen over the age of 18 - to vote. Teachers, members of the PTA, grassroots groups, student organizations, and others can and should organize VR drives. To do so, however, you must first be deputized as a VDR in a particular county. The difference between HSDRs and VDRs is that HSDRs use a special VR form issued by the Secretary of State for use on campus and they must offer students the opportunity to register twice per academic year at their schools. VDRs can host VR drives anytime throughout the year and can register people anywhere, so long as each would-be voter is a resident of the county in which the VDR is deputized."
#OwnOurVote provides toolkits for students, parents, teachers and administrators to set up student registration programs.
(1) "Texas’s High School Voter Registration Law Fails to Live Up to Ideals," James Russell, NextCity, July 2, 2020
"Conducting voter registration activities in K-12 schools is the most efficient and equitable way to ensure that all young people have the capacity to vote, when they are eligible to do so," Teaching for Democracy Alliance.