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September 20, 2018
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Minnesota Colleges and Universities are mandated to provide students voter registration forms, but are they?
Some campuses confused by separate state mandate, despite exclusion from federal requirement
Washington, D.C. – With the fall term underway and the 2018 midterms rapidly approaching the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project contacted colleges and universities across Minnesota this week to reminder them of the state requirement that all postsecondary institutions “provide voter registration forms to each student as early as possible in the fall quarter” and ““[i]nstitutions shall consult with their campus student government in determining the most effective means of distributing the forms and in seeking to facilitate election day registration of students…”
These requirements in Minnesota Statute §201.1611 are separate from a similar federal requirement contained in the Higher Education Act, which Minnesota is excluded from due to the fact that Minnesota allows for Election Day registration as well. Campus Vote Project participated in the Democracy in Action Summit hosted at Minneapolis College last month and heard from participants that they were not aware of their institution complying with Minnesota Statute §201.1611, and that some institutions may be confusing it with a separate federal statute that Minnesota campuses are exempt from. For example, see this post from Normandale Community College about the federal statute but failing to mention the state requirement to distribute voter registration forms – www.normandale.edu/directory/disclosures/voter-registration
“Thanks to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement we know that nearly 84% of students at Minnesota institutions that were registered to vote did so in 2016, yet Minnesota students are registered at a rate lower then that national average” said Mike Burns the National Director for Campus Vote Project. While Election Day registration is a great fail safe, it can lead to very long wait times if everyone needs to register or update their registration prior to voting, this is especially true in student-heavy precincts since they are a population that change address’ frequent. “Given all this information we knew we needed to reach colleges and universities and educate them about their duty to fulfill the civic mission of higher education and also comply with Minnesota Statute §201.1611 and assist students with voter registration.”
Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization which works to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies. The Center works to improve election administration through legislative, legal and administrative reform, to protect access to the ballot through litigation, and to provide election law expertise, voter information and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.
Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. Our goal is to help campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.