How Colleges Can (and Can’t) Support 2022 Campaign Activities on Campus and Help Students Vote
September 19, 2022

​Despite the increasingly difficult voting processes in a number of states in the wake of the 2020 election, students are voting in numbers like never before. Last month, The Washington Post reported that 66 percent of college students who were registered to vote cast their ballots in 2020, an increase of 14 percentage points over 2016. In the 2018 midterms, college student voter turnout doubled from 19 percent in 2014 to 40 percent.

ACE has released an issue brief to help colleges and universities manage their obligations and other matters related to student voting, an update of the 2020 version that also addresses rules of the road for institutions and  campus community members regarding involvement in political campaign activities.

Students' desire to participate in the democratic process as voters and the practical impediments they face to do so have grown since the previous update. Always somewhat fraught and confusing due to shifts in where students live and are registered to vote and differing state laws, the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic ratcheted up these challenges. The issue brief suggests steps colleges and universities can take to enable students to cast their ballots, as well as to fulfill their obligations under the Higher Education Act.

Institutions also should be aware of both pre-existing and new state requirements that could undermine students' access to the polls. For example, a number of states do not accept student IDs at polling places, or have restrictions such as requiring that the student ID cards be signed or issued within the past two years.

As the issue brief points out, colleges and universities have long supported student voter participation efforts such as the Your Vote, Your Voice initiative, a national campus voter registration project coordinated by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Various other nonpartisan initiatives encourage institutions and their constituencies to help make student voting easier. For instance, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national awards program recognizing colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates. 

As the brief emphasizes, colleges and universities should take care to ensure that the voting resources offered to their students are nonpartisan and that their communications with students are offered and received that way.

​Student Voting and College Political Campaign-Related Activities in 2022