Background

The 1998 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 included a mandate that requires institutions of higher education to engage in certain voter registration activities during years when there are elections for federal office, governor or other chief executives within the state [HEA Section 487(a)(23)].

In accordance with the statute, institutions must make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms and make such forms widely available to students in attendance. Institutions must request a sufficient number of voter registration forms from the state in which the campus is located 120 days prior to that state’s registration deadline for all students enrolled in a degree- or certificate-seeking program and physically in attendance at the institution. Institutions must distribute the forms to students no less than 60 days before the voter registration deadline. The institution will not be held liable, however, if a state fails to provide a sufficient number of forms at least 60 days prior to that state’s registration deadline.

As part of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, a revision to the law was created to allow institutions to comply with the mandate through electronic distribution as long as the transmitted message contains either the state’s voter registration form or an internet address where such a form can be downloaded, provided that this information is in an electronic message devoted exclusively to voter registration.

College and university presidents have a responsibility to support a campus’ civic ethos to do more than provide voter registration forms. It’s more important than ever to inform campus stakeholders about their rights and responsibilities of being an active community member. By making the President’s Commitment today, your campus is:

  • Preparing our students to be engaged in a thriving democracy.
  • Empowering faculty, staff, students, and community stakeholders to come together in community to co-decide the solutions to the wicked problems our communities face.
  • Educating voters to make informed decisions about issues and candidates in presidential, national, state, and local elections.
  • Actively participating in a democratic engagement action plan to bolster an institutional culture that supports curricular and cocurricular involvement in the electoral process.