Universities across the nation are breaking the law, according to a study conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The crime: not getting students registered to vote.
The law in question is part of the 1998 Higher Education Act, which says universities receiving federal funding must make a good-faith effort to distribute voter-registration forms to each student. The survey, published in September, finds that while 83.1 percent of universities do not follow the law, two-thirds have some program in place — falling at least in the spirit of the law.
David C. King, associate director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said he cannot reveal which universities are in compliance because of the survey’s confidentiality agreements.
To comply, each university should set up a polling place on campus yearly, send registration forms to incoming students or send e-mails to the entire student body, he said.
Many universities weren’t aware they were breaking a law, King said. The spirit of the law, he said, has two criteria: availability of voter-registration forms and voter-registration drives on campus.
At MU, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a group funded with educational fees, organized voter-registration opportunities all over campus. The group also trained employees at the Student Health Center, University Bookstore, Disability Services and Ellis Library on how to register students to vote.
ASUM programming director Brent Showalter said the group has tried to give students at least two opportunities a week to register to vote. The deadline is Wednesday. He said the association has offered about 10 opportunities this semester, including debates among candidates for public office and political groups on campus.
King said he doesn’t think student efforts are sufficient.
“It’s not enough just to rely on students to get people to vote,” he said, pointing to the transience of the student population.
He faults the administrations of universities that have no idea what office should handle voter registration.
“As a result, it has fallen through the cracks,” King said.