They found more than 180,000 students were left without voter registration through their schools
Voting is a fundamental right all Americans should be able to exercise. However, understanding that privilege and getting all of the information in order to register is sometimes overlooked. But in the state of Texas there seems to be a gaping hole in the process, where two-thirds of high schools have been found not following a law mandating registration options be given to eligible students.
According to the Texas Observer, for more than 30 years all Texas high school principals have been required by state law to distribute voter registration applications to all students who will turn 18 that school year. In fact, the law also states applications must be given to students at least twice a year. But according to a new report, the lack of enforcement shows at least 180,000 high school seniors over the last two years have been left without the option given to them.
The Texas Civil Rights Group, an advocacy group dedicated to heading up “advocacy to protect and expand voting rights, challenge injustices in our broken criminal justice system, and advance racial and economic justice for historically marginalized communities” issued the report, stating compliance in Texas high schools has been “abysmal.”
Specifically, 82 out of 232 counties in Texas that have public high schools with more than 20 seniors enrolled never made a single request for high school voter registration forms, which equates to more than 180,000 potential voters, failing to take the “first basic step in complying with the high school voter registration law,” the report finds.
Many on Twitter are outraged at the findings:
We show them the law that requires registration. Then they go silent. Won’t return calls or emails.— Sandra Kearns (@Kearns_SL) September 7, 2018
This is voter suppression. Unbelievable.— It's Mueller Time! (@mamabearcara143) September 6, 2018
This is insane! They’re underestimating young people in Texas! I hope they’re finding ways to register! Vote every one of these corrupt officials trying to disenfranchise them out! Their votes matter now more than ever!— CHARI 🇵🇷 (@charito_lee) September 7, 2018
Voter suppression? Definitely. Unbelievable? Not so much.— RiotGurl☮💜🎶 (@TammyStead) September 7, 2018
This should never happen in America.— Rick (@RicknShira) September 7, 2018
Even with laws in place, there are student-driven, nonprofit agencies working tirelessly throughout many states to increase eligible students to vote. According to the League of Women Voters, Americans younger than 30 remain “severely underrepresented” in the electorate, the gap even more considerable when looking at African-Americans, Latinos, and those who don’t attend college (43 percent are missing from those who aren’t enrolled). If states are also missing the high school population, imagine the type of impact this could make to local and national elections? Texas is 47th in the country as far as voter turnout — this is probably a large part of the reason.
As to be expected from their poise during 2018, even the Parkland survivors are stepping in to register voters on their ‘Road to Change’ tour across America, traveling to 20 states and making 75 stops along the way to encourage voters to get out to the polls.
“I believe that Texas Republicans are afraid that if more Texans register to vote, those voters will be Democratic voters,” said state Representative Terry Canales (D). “I have worked on increasing high school voter registration for many years, and I have never been given a legitimate reason that our state should not be registering every high school student as they are required to by law.”
It is critical now more than ever to register young voters. Their voices must be heard. Their futures, and ours, are at stake.