Texas High Schools Are Supposed To Help Students Register To Vote, But They Don't

Oct 3, 2017

A state voter registration law enacted 34 years ago by the Texas legislature is seeing scant results, largely due to low participation by the same institutions the policy aims to target: high schools.    

The little-known law addresses voter registration for eligible students – teens at least 17 years and 10 months old – and requires Texas high school principals or designees to provide voter registration information at least twice a year.

According to the Texas Civil Rights Project, six percent of high schools asked the Texas Secretary of State's office for voter registration applications in 2016. Only 198 of the state's 1,428 public high schools indicated that they requested forms, while none of the estimated 1,800 private schools across the state reported making the same request.

"Participation in our High School Voter Registration Initiative is crucial to the future of our state and the health of our democracy," Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said in a statement. "I welcome any valid input from community stakeholders and seek to work with organizations whose priorities are educating students on their civic duties and empowering them to vote, rather than engaging in misplaced political campaigns."

At this time, the Secretary of State's office has received commitment from more than 400 superintendents statewide, which accounts for more than 800 high schools in Texas.

With less than half of Texans ages 18 to 24 registered to vote, could giving high school students more opportunities to register affect voter participation and turnout?

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