WASHINGTON -- Youth voter turnout, especially among low-income students, is significantly impeded by voter identification laws and restrictions on same-day registration, and educators and policymakers should collaborate to improve civic education and engagement, according to a new report commissioned by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Most of the report’s recommendations – including lowering the legal voting age to 17 – are directed at politicians and K-12 schools as opposed to colleges (though it does encourage collaboration with colleges on the issues). But there is some takeaway for higher education as well, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said here at the report’s release Wednesday.
Colleges can “be part of the solution to the K-12 problem” – that is, teachers’ failure to discuss politics and voting laws in the classroom. “[Colleges] educate the teachers, drive curriculum, decide who to admit,” Levine said. “High school curriculum is imitating Government 101.”
Professors could also do more to educate students about the voting process and help them register, said Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a member of the group that authored the report, the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge. He pointed to TurboVote, a Harvard student’s start-up that simplifies registration and reminds students when deadlines approach. “A very small investment can get their students engaged,” Grayson said. “The numbers are better for college students, but they’re still not as good as they should be.”
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