Voter Registration Counts
It seems that it is almost an annual occurrence. It is either a state or federal election that is on the horizon. And, with an election in view come the seemingly unending political advertisements. Most would probably agree that by election time, one has seen and heard more than enough of what seems to have become endless diatribes rather than civil and intelligent discourse on issues. But, regardless, such an event highlights the privilege and responsibility of citizens to exercise their vote. In preparation for doing so, naturally, eligible citizens should ensure they are not only cognizant of the issues and candidates on the ballot, but also are appropriately registered to vote.
Responsibility for Schools
Interestingly, postsecondary schools that participate in the Title IV Federal Student Aid programs 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 that is delineated 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.
Schools in all states required to distribute voter registration forms must 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. With the timeframe defined above in mind, schools in the states required to do so should begin to request and distribute voter registration information now as states’ deadlines for registering to vote may be in October. Thus, it is imperative to get information out now to comply with the deadline. 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 additional resource site that readers may want to review includes 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. One further resource 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. The 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
The 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. 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; 1314FSAH 2-147)