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Don’t Forget: Voter Registration

August 26, 2016
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A requirement of a Title IV eligible institution is to ensure students are provided voter election-2016registration information.  It seems that just as our votes are cast for one election, another election cycle is rolling full-steam ahead!  It generates a feeling that it is an ongoing process.  But, in reality, in many cases it is every two to four years between such elections.  The sense of frequency comes from the combination of both state and federal elections.  Depending upon your state, it could be either a state election for governor or state chief executive officer, or a general or special election for federal offices that is on the horizon in any particular year.

Of course, this year is a federal election for president, which has generated much commentary on all sides, as depicted in the seemingly unending political advertisements and news commentators’ diatribes and sound bites.   By election time, one will have seen and heard more than enough of the endless political talking points.  Hopefully along the line there is actual civil and intelligent discourse on the issues, as well.  Still, the opportunity of citizens to vote is a privilege and responsibility that should be exercised, and not taken lightly.  Part of exercising that privilege must include becoming cognizant of the issues and candidates on the ballot, as well as ensuring that one is appropriately registered to vote.

Responsibility for Schools

Not only do individual citizens have a responsibility to vote.  But, postsecondary schools that participate in the Title IV Federal Student Aid programs have the responsibility, and are required, to make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to their students.  This requirement is applicable to schools in most states and the District of Columbia which are covered under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993.  That is, schools in states that require voter registration prior to Election Day or that do not allow for voter registration at the time of voting must comply with this requirement.  This obligation is stipulated in your Title IV Program Participation Agreement.  Currently, the only states exempt from this requirement are Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  Likewise, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa are not covered by the NVRA and thus, are not required to distribute the voter registration forms.

It is expected that schools have already been active in providing the voter information to their students.  Schools are to request the forms from their state 120 days prior to the state’s deadline for registering to vote.  The provision is applicable to all general and special elections for federal office and to state elections for governor or other chief executives within a state.  Due to the required time frame indicated above, schools in those states where schools are required to provide voter registration material must immediately take steps to disseminate the voter registration information now, if they have not already done so.   This is critical as some states’ deadlines for registering to vote may votebe in October.  Thus, it is imperative to get information out now.  Note that if a school appropriately requested copies of the voter registration form within the required timeframe but does not receive the forms from the state within 60 days prior to the deadline for registering to vote in the state, the school will not be held liable for not fulfilling the requirement in that election year.

Resources for Deadlines

Schools may check with the state election office for their own state to get official details and deadlines applicable to their state.  The United States Election Assistance Commission provides a map of the United States at http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/contact_your_state.aspx with links to each of the states’ election office’s Web sites.  Another resource site that readers may want to review is the U.S. Vote Foundation’s site that lists the various states’ election information, including dates and deadlines.  The site may be viewed at https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-election-dates-deadlines.htm?gclid=COGq0YOF8L4CFQiUfgodnTUA2A.  The U.S. Vote Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity per its Web site.  An interesting point about the U.S. Vote Foundation’s site is that you can register with them to be regularly notified of important election dates, etc.  One additional resource to consider is Rock the Vote’s Web site at http://www.rockthevote.com/election-center/voter-registration-deadlines-by-state.html.  This link provides a page for researching a state’s voter registration deadline and other pertinent information.  Additionally, by providing applicable information, an individual can check to see if they are registered if not already certain.  This entity is also listed as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  Keep in mind that the ultimate resource for confirming a state’s voter registration information and deadlines is the state’s own site, for which the contact information and URL will vary from state to state.  (Note:  FAME does not endorse or represent any of the aforementioned organizations or their Web sites.  They are only listed as possible resources for obtaining information.  Any reader is advised to confirm and verify on their own the data they have listed.)

Requirements for Dissemination

vote-2The voter registration forms must be made widely available individually to the school’s degree and certificate program students who physically attend your institution.  Schools have the option to distribute the voter registration forms by regular mail or electronic mail (e-mail).  If distribution is done via e-mail, the message must contain an acceptable voter registration form or an Internet address (URL) where the form may be downloaded.  If an e-mail distribution method is utilized, the e-mail message must be devoted exclusively to voter registration (i.e., no other announcements, reminders, or information regarding other topics is to be included with the e-mail containing voter registration information).

This requirement does require an effort on the part of schools.  Hopefully all schools have included this requirement in their annual calendar of operations, and again, have already begun the dissemination of the required voter registration material.   We commend schools in advance for ensuring every eligible student is provided with the opportunity to be appropriately registered to vote in the upcoming elections this year.  Such efforts count toward your school’s compliance with Title IV regulations.  And, each eligible student’s vote counts toward this nation’s future.

(GEN1317; 1617FSAH 2-142)
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(GEN1317; 1617FSAH 2-142)
This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered to be giving legal advice.

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