NAICU Washington Update

Ensuring the Rights of College Students to Vote

That was the title of a recent hearing held by the Committee on House Administration's Subcommittee on Elections. Stories in the media about restrictive residency and identification requirements and other complaints led to this investigation to make certain students would have a successful voting experience in the November general election. The Supreme Court made it clear in 1972 that students have a right to vote from campus. However, state laws are often confusing to new voters.

Recent weeks have brought accounts of students being given conflicting advice on how best to cast their ballot. The news media have detailed how the confusion is playing out in Virginia – but Virginia is not alone. Barriers to student voting have been raised in states across the country – from Maine to Tennessee, from North Carolina to Michigan. And many on campus still remember the 2004 presidential election, with long lines at the polls in Ohio and students from Kenyon College reportedly waiting ten hours to vote. Clearly, students and those who advise them need to receive information from reliable and trustworthy sources.

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) recently issued a report detailing the steps their members are taking in anticipation of high voter turnout November 4. NASS also has provided information on how to find the correct polling place, along with a number of state hotlines to register complaints.

NAICU is actively engaged this election season. We have supported voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote efforts through the National Campus Voter Registration Project’s Your Vote, Your Voice and its Web site. As voter registration deadlines approach – in the next few weeks for most states – Your Vote, Your Voice has posted a list of deadlines by state.

Through NAICU’s efforts, Your Vote, Your Voice also has partnered with NASS, the Overseas Vote Foundation, and the Commission on Presidential Debates in informing and engaging campus voters. As the election season comes down the home stretch, Your Vote, Your Voice and its partners continue to encourage campuses to get involved. One new initiative this year is, an educational Web site created by MySpace and the Commission on Presidential Debates. The site provides interactive quizzes and videos, as well as information on important election issues such as the economy, environment, and national security.

The remaining national candidate debates will all be held at NAICU member institutions: the vice-presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, October 2, and the presidential debates at Belmont University (Tenn.) October 7, and at Hofstra University (N.Y.) October 15.

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