Sept. 20 — WASHINGTON — Bipartisan suffrage organizations The Civics Center and Fair Elections Center have released a new report titled “Introducing Students to Our Democracy,” which evaluates how public high schools in Georgia and North Carolina are meeting their state’s youth voter registration laws retain.
While citizens across the country can register before the age of 18, very little infrastructure exists to support and encourage voter registration in secondary schools. State laws in Georgia and North Carolina require public schools to provide voter registration applications to eligible students.
The report sheds light on how Georgia and North Carolina public schools are complying with these laws. Key new findings include:
— In both states, public high school compliance with state law is positively correlated with 18-year-old enrollment rates;
— Factors such as multiple opportunities to register for election during the school year, good communication with the student body about those opportunities, district leadership on registration opportunities, and district policies to support high school registration efforts are key to increasing youth registration rates;
— Under-18 registration rates in North Carolina, where select counties generally comply with the law, are higher on average than in Georgia, and those calculated by the Civics Center in select counties of all other states.
The report comes at an urgent time for youth suffrage, with all eyes on young voters as the nation approaches midterm elections. Research shows that our democracy’s youngest voters have the opportunity to play a significant role in the outcome of these elections if they are registered.
“High school students are the newest members of our democracy, and the American education system has a responsibility to teach these young people how to vote in our elections,” said Mike Burns, national director of the Fair Elections Center’s campus voting project. “These state laws exist to fulfill the promise of American democracy, and we know that when fully implemented, they work. It is important that all school districts comply with these laws and support students in this endeavor.”
“Young people can be the agents of their own political power when they create climates in their school communities that support democracy and civic engagement,” said Laura W. Brill, Founder and Director of the Civics Center. “Roughly 1 million high school students across the country will be old enough to vote in November, and schools have an ideal opportunity to put citizenship education into action through equitable, inclusive, and impartial programs that provide young people with the resources , which they need to register to vote. “