Voting rights group worries schools aren’t following Texas law

FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The younger you are the less likely you are to vote, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project. They want the state to make a change.

They found four years ago, 50 percent of people between 18-29 voted across the country. That’s 8.7 percent lower than the voter turnout for all eligible voters. There are more than a thousand school districts in the state and more than a thousand high schools.

Austin Superintendent Paul Cruz shoots a video with students urging their peers to vote. Every school has to have a deputy voter registrar and AISD goes beyond that, having another 100 social studies teachers who can also legally supply registration paperwork. “Just explaining the voting process and making sure we’re connecting with our student,” said Dr. Cruz.

But voting rights advocates say not enough schools do what AISD schools do. “It’s generally a large question mark,” said  Cassandra Champion, attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. She says every principal must request registration paperwork and distribute it to eligible students twice a year. They say in mid-September, only four percent had done that.

“High schools either don’t know the law, they are not implementing it twice a year, or they’re confused about their responsibilities,” said Champion.

Last presidential election, the Texas Civil Rights Project survey looked at dozens of school districts by surveying superintendents and principals. Of the superintendents that responded, only 22 percent reported that high schools in their district distributed voter registration applications at least twice a year.

Thirty-eight percent of high schools in districts were distributing applications once a year. Forty-one percent never distributed them. She says lawmakers should put a penalty or have the secretary of state send out the paperwork automatically. “Although it’s a law that they have to do this, there’s no teeth to it,” she says.

The Texas secretary of state says he’s reminded schools about the law across Texas in person and by email, but it’s up to school leaders to follow through.

Monday, we requested the number of schools who complied with the law from the Office of the Secretary of State. We are waiting to hear back.

This year AISD is doing everything they can to get young voters to the polls.

About 100 Kindergarten through 12th grade social studies teachers are voter registrars. High school teachers who went through the process can register eligible students on campus. Last month, AISD hosted a mock election in partnership with the Travis County First Vote Program. They also gave students voter registration cards, to make sure they can have a say. Students say they realize the importance of this election and of being heard.

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