How Do I Register to Vote?
Think/Pair/Share: Should voting be easy? Should there be barriers or exclusions of who is able to vote?
What do students already know about voter registration in Texas? Each student identifies truths and lies about voter registration by writing true or false as the instructor reads the question to the class.
- Less than half of millennials ages 18-29 who meet eligibility requirements are registered to vote in the U.S. (True. Nationally, the proportion of 18- to 29- year-olds who were registered to vote in 2016 was slightly less than 50%.)
- Texas has online voter registration. (False. You may fill out a voter registration application online, print it, and mail it to the voter registrar in your county of residence, but you cannot submit the completed application online. Applicants are not registered until the printed application is received in the mail and recorded by the local County Voter Registrar.)
- The “motor voter” act passed in 1993 enables voters to vote from their cars in selected locations. (False. In an effort to simplify the voter registration process, Congress passed the so-called “motor voter” act permitting citizens to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license or, simply, by mail. It does not permit “drive-through” voting.)
- Texas allows voters to register and vote on the same day at polling places on election day. (False. In Texas, registrations are not effective until 30 days after the date the applicant registered, therefore an applicate cannot register and vote on the same day. Some states do offer same day registration)
- You have to re-register to vote for every election. (False. You only have to register once. You do, however, have to update your information or re-register if you change your name or address.)
- People who are not citizens cannot register and vote even though they have legal status such as a visa or green card or DACA status. (True. Only US citizens can register and vote.)
- College students who live away from home may choose either their parents’ address as their residence for voting purposes or their college address. (True, but students cannot be registered in both places. Students living away from home who choose their parents’ address as their residence may vote by mail with an absentee ballot if they are unable to return to their parent’s home to vote. See the Secretary of State’s website for information on how to request an absentee ballot. Students from other states should follow that states’ rules regarding residence for voting purposes, as posted by that state’s Secretary of State’s website.)
- You must show your voter registration certificate when you vote. (False. The required forms of ID include a Texas Driver’s License, Texas personal identification card and several other forms of ID, but a voter registration certificate is not on the list. However, people who are unable to obtain one of the required IDs may still vote if they show an alternative ID including a voter registration certificate if they sign an affidavit saying why they are unable to obtain one of the required IDs.)
- The voting rights of a person who has been convicted of a felony are restored once that person has completely discharged his or her sentence (i.e., is off paper). (True in Texas. In some states voting rights are not restored even after the sentence has been served.)
Student Survey: Students fill out an anonymous survey. Instructor uses results to set up the video. Suggested resource: Poll Everywhere (free account setup required)
- Have you ever been asked to register to vote?
- Are you registered to vote?
- Yes, and my registration is current.
- Yes, but my registration needs to be updated. (e.g., name or address change)
- No, but I do plan to register to vote.
- No, and I do not plan to register to vote.
- I plan to register to vote __________.
- When I become eligible
- When I apply for or renew my driver’s license
- When I have time to apply online
- The next time someone hands me an application.
- Not applicable
- I do not plan to register to vote because __________.
- I do not plan to vote.
- Politics do not interest me.
- I do not think voter registration data is secure.
- I do not want to be summoned for jury duty.
- I do not know how to register.
- I am not eligible.
- Not applicable.
- Which best describes how often you expect to vote?
- Every election, without exception
- Almost every election; miss one occasionally
- Only in elections that involve candidates or issues that interest me
- Not at all
Video Outline: How Do I Register to Vote?
- Students react to the question, “Are you registered to vote?
- Applicant completes registration form, signs and drops form in mailbox.
- Guide explains where to find voter registration applications.
Activity – Register to Vote
- Ask students who believe they are registered to vote to use their phones to check their registration status at their county website or at the Secretary of State’s website:
- Hand out voter registration application forms to students. If they are eligible and wish to vote, encourage them to fill out and mail the forms to the local deputy registrar.
- Distribute additional forms to students who have family or friends who may want to register.
- Texas Secretary of State: Register to Vote
- Texas Secretary of State: Frequently Asked Questions about Voter Registration
- Open Stax, Chapter 7
- 7.1 Voter Registration
- United States Election Project – Voter Turnout Demographics
Observe turnout % and have students brainstorm the policy impact of voting turnout or non-voting within demographic groups
- How does the federal government promote voter registration?
- What level of control do states have over the voter registration process?
Activity – Small Groups: Questions for Research
Websites are suggested starting points. Students should be encouraged to research additional sources and consider multiple viewpoints. Each option could be assigned to a separate group that would prepare a brief presentation to report findings to the class on their assigned topic.
Topic 1: Unregistered Eligible Voters
Why do some people choose not to register to vote? What opportunities do they have to register? Can these opportunities be expanded?
- “Why Are Millions of Citizens Not Registered to Vote: A survey of the civically unengaged finds they lack interest, but outreach opportunities exist.”
June 21, 2017
Topic 2: Inaccurate Registrations
According to RTI International, a research institute commissioned by the Pew Center on the States, 1 in 8 registrations are significantly inaccurate or no longer valid. What causes these inaccuracies and inefficiencies in voter registration rolls and what could be done to eliminate them?
- “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade”
The Pew Center on the States
Topic 3: Automatic Voter Registration (AVR)
What are the advantages and disadvantages of AVR? Does AVR increase voter turnout? How might AVR affect the demographics of registered voters? How might AVR affect the demographics of registered voters?*
|Talk/Read/Talk/Write (PDF-59 KB)|
|Talk 1||Why is voter registration necessary?|
|Read||Automatic Voter Registration
|Talk 2||Why have some states moved towards automatic voter registration?|
|Write||You are meeting with a state representative next week. Draft suggested plans to share on improving Texas’ voter registration process.
Topic 4: National Voting Registration Act of 1993
Research the National Voting Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA or “motor voter law”) Why was it needed? What was its purpose? What did it accomplish? What are the challenges in measuring its effectiveness? What reforms are needed?
- Measuring Motor Voter
The PEW Charitable Trusts
Topic 5: Purging of Voter Rolls
How do you feel about the purging of voter registration rolls? Why were individuals so passionate about the following video?
- Morning Mix newsletter
The Washington Post
Purged from voting rolls while deployed, Ohio vet demands answers.
Topic 6: Online Voter Registration
Which states currently have online voter registration?Why might states choose not to have online voter registration?
- Online Voter Registration Across the U.S.
October 20, 2015/updated September 28, 2016