For young voters busy registering for classes, registering to vote isn’t always their No. 1 priority. Tack on changing registration laws and voting can turn into a struggle. “When students come back to school, they’re either more worried about schools or worried about, let’s be honest, parties,” said David Schultz, an election law expert at Hamline University. “The first thing on their mind is not registering to vote, especially for students who just turned 18. They don’t know much about the process.” California’s new same-day registration law is a blessing for students with planners already crammed with exam dates, Rock the Vote President Heather Smith said. But across the country there are technical issues students face that could complicate the process for them. Students new to voting often don’t know registration deadlines (in Texas, Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 in New York) or even that they need to register to vote, Smith said. “It’s frustrating when a young person navigating the process for the first time is calling our office on Election Day (saying), ‘I’m here and ready to vote and I didn’t realize I needed to register,’” Smith said. Proposed ID requirements to register, like Texas and Pennsylvania laws currently in the courts that don’t accept all student IDs, have been criticized as adding another hurdle for young voters. For example, students in the dorms or on campuses with good public transportation often don’t need a driver’s license, Smith said.
Not all students feel that way, though. Texas College Republicans chairwoman Amanda Adamez points out that many schools require IDs to register for classes and receive financial aid, so students already should have necessary documents to register. But for some, having the right ID is only half the battle. Moving from your parents’ house to a dorm, to an apartment and then to another apartment makes having an ID with an updated address tricky, Adamez said. States like Texas and New York have laws requiring 30 days of residency to vote there, another stretch for students who normally start college in September and have to scramble to register in time or might not have moved early enough to establish residency.
“For a lot of students, when they move from their parents’ house at 18, or later on…even though they’re supposed to switch, odds are they’re not going to change it right away, especially if they’re living at a dorm,” Schultz said. “The frequent movement of students may put them in a scenario where they do not have a government issued ID that reflects the current address where they’re living.”