Registration Form Changes Target Student Voters

Registration Form Changes Target Student Voters

Common Cause is challenging a federal official's approval of changes to voter registration forms used in three states.

States Altering the Rules to Make It Harder for Students to Participate

Common Cause and 30 allied organizations are pushing a top federal elections official to withdraw his approval of voter registration forms that could work to deny voting rights to thousands of students in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama.

In a letter to Brian Newby, executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, the groups charge that Newby violated the agency’s policies and procedures when he allowed the states to require that prospective voters supply written proof of their U.S. citizenship before they can be registered to vote.

These changes come at an especially crucial time – an election year – when many more potential voters decide to register. Because they typically have moved away to attend college, the proof of citizenship requirement puts a special burden on students.

A student living on campus that wanted to register to vote would need to provide a birth certificate, passport, or some document that proved citizenship. Most students do not keep their birth certificates or passports on campus; these are important documents that students leave at home for safekeeping. Students who attend college out-of-state will have an even harder time getting documents to prove their citizenship. Without easy access to these documents, students will be discouraged from registering to vote. Low voter registration equals low voter turnout, which is already low even without these changes.

According to the US Census Bureau, voters aged 18 to 24 have voted at lower rates than those in any other age group in every presidential election since 1962. On average, less than half of these 18-24 eligible voters will turn out for a presidential election. Students are a large and diverse group, meaning that they could have a real impact in an election. We should be encouraging students to vote, not making it harder for them.

As a presidential election year, 2016 is a big year for voter registration; for many college students it’s the first it’s the first time they’ll be old enough to help choose a President. Requiring proof of citizenship to register could prevent these students from participating in a process that should be easily afforded to them.

The voting process should be fair and accessible to all. The EAC must do its job to ensure this – by guaranteeing every eligible American’s right to vote. We cannot allow changes to federal voter registration forms that would make it more difficult for people, especially students, to participate in elections.