Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and representative Nikema Williams of Georgia have introduced a bill that will attempt to eliminate barriers to voting faced by college-age Americans, who vote at lower rates than any other age group.
The Youth Voting Rights Act, introduced in the Senate Monday, would make it easier for voters to bring lawsuits protesting limitations to voting access and expand voter registration and polling locations on college campuses.
The bill would require all public colleges to host on-campus voting sites and would create a process for private schools to host polling places on campus. Private colleges that choose not to host a polling location would be required to provide alternative accommodations—such as transportation to polling locations or absentee ballot drop-off boxes—to students.
It also proposes codifying the ability for students to essentially choose if they want to vote in their state of residency or the state where they attend college—a process called domicile. Although the right to vote from a college domicile has already been created through prior court rulings, this bill would establish the right in law.
Additionally, to help eliminate the need for college students to travel to a polling place or vote via absentee ballot—which are rejected for voters 18 to 21 at a rate that is five times higher than that of voters aged 45 to 64—the bill would require all public colleges to have voter registration agencies on campus.
It would also allow students to use their student ID cards, opposed to the typically required government-issued form of ID such as a driver’s license or passport, to vote at all polling locations and allow all voters over the age of 16 to be able to preregister to vote. Only 10 states with voter ID laws current accept student ID cards as a valid form of identification.
The bill also proposes a $26 million grant program to incentivize states to create and fund other youth civic involvement programs.
“The provisions of this bill would be transformative. College students and other young people are a critical, yet overlooked, part of our democracy, and it’s essential that legislation like this, which significantly expands their access to registration and voting, is swiftly passed,” said Mike Burns, national director of the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.
The bill has strong Democratic support and has been endorsed by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.