Social Studies

Few Texas High Schools Fulfill Voter Registration Law

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 08, 2018 1 min read

Voting. It’s a core civic value. It’s the theme holding together the Road to Change tour that students from Parkland, Fla., are leading through 30 cities. It has major education implications—as in Missouri, where voters recently rejected a “right to work” law just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court nixed unions’ abilities in right-to-work settings to collect agency fees from nonmembers.

Voting appears to be on everyone’s mind—everyone except Texas high schools’, it seems, which continue to fail to meet state requirements to make voter registration forms available to eligible student voters, according to a new report from the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Its analysis, based on public records requests, details how fewer than a third of Texas high schools requested voter-registration forms in the 2017-18 school year—the first step in fulfilling a law that’s been on the books since 1985 requiring all public and private high schools to supply the applications at least twice a year.

In a few cases, a school district requested the forms on behalf of all its high schools. Assuming it appropriately distributed all those forms, the overall share of compliant high schools rises to just 34 percent.

There are more than 183,000 seniors in Texas high schools, and although some small portion of them are not eligible to vote, that math indicates that’s still a huge number of seniors who aren’t being given this access.

The group says that, rather than requiring overworked school officials to request the forms, the Texas Secretary of State should simply mail them at the beginning of each semester to each high school. It should also track which schools are complying, it said.

The Texas Observer picked up the ball, reporting that in response to the report, the Texas Secretary of State pointed to several efforts the state had made under his watch to increase compliance.

But other lawmakers believe little will happen unless the legislation is updated to require all high schools to offer the forms year-round, the news organization reported.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.