Organizing a voter registration drive at your school can be a lot of work. But the more you involve your school community in this project, the more successful your registration drive will likely be. Your own relationships will shape who you’ll reach out to—and how—but you can start with these key members of a team.
If you’re planning a voter registration drive for all students at your school, getting your fellow educators and administrators on your team is a must: You’ll need their help encouraging student participation and setting aside class time to register students. Here’s how you can build support among colleagues.
- Check your state’s laws. Several states require schools to provide opportunities for students to register before they graduate. Check to see if your state has a law like this on the books. In many districts, laws mandating opportunities for voter registration are unclear or little-known. If that’s the case in your community, your school’s administration may be glad to have a volunteer to get a registration program started.
- Have resources ready. Voter registration is civics in action. Try reaching out to colleagues who teach U.S. history, government or civics to ask whether they plan to include voter registration in their lessons. You can even offer to visit their class, share an activity (try one of our Democracy Class lessons) and register students with them.
- Explain why this work is crucial. For some, registering students may seem like a perfunctory task—another administrative box to check. When you ask colleagues to join you, explain why this work is worth their time. You might connect the work of registering young people to the larger fight against voter suppression. Or you can frame registration in terms of empowering students, supporting student voice or even teaching critical life skills.
However you reach out to colleagues, be sure to keep your planning nonpartisan and invite participation from any interested members of your school community.
The laws around voter registration vary from state to state. In Florida, for example, anyone registering voters is considered a “Third Party Voter Registration Organization” and must register individually in the state or partner with a registered organization.
You’ll need a veteran registrar on your team to make sure you’re doing a few things: following all of the proper procedures for your state, including as many future voters as possible and ensuring that no one’s registration will be disqualified. To ensure that you are keeping your school’s voter registration drive nonpartisan, avoid partnering with someone who volunteers to register voters for a party or campaign. Instead, try asking colleagues if they have experience or reaching out to a local nonprofit. Here are a few places you might start:
- The League of Women Voters offers detailed information about election laws for every state, a school voter registration guide and a wide range of local services to schools and partners. League volunteer teams, making up more than 750 state and local affiliates nationwide, work with thousands of educators every year to empower and inform young people about the voting process. You can connect with your local League by searching by ZIP code.
- Rock the Vote has been turning out young voters since 1990 and offers state-by-state information on elections, voter registration and action-based steps youth can take.
- When We All Vote has launched a “My School Votes” program that offers state-by-state registration guidelines.
As much as you’ll need support from colleagues and experienced registrars, the one group absolutely critical to your success is students. They’re the ones who can anticipate challenges, build excitement, reach out to peers and help ensure as many of their classmates as possible get registered to vote.
Include students from the very first phases of your planning, and create space for them to be equal partners—not just assistants—in your work. The fact is that your students know the issues that will matter most to their cohort. Let them take the lead on projects advertising your drive. Involve them in planning lessons about voting that will help young people connect registration to their lives and ensuring no one is left out or singled out on registration day. And let them lead efforts to follow up after registration events to encourage civic participation come Election Day!