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Bill requires universities to offer voter registration during course enrollment

By Lindsay Eckert

A federal bill conceived by students encouraging their peers to register to vote was reintroduced to the 111th Congress last week.

The bill, if passed, would require federally funded universities to provide voter registration to students when they enroll for courses.

The student-run advocacy group Student Association for Voter Empowerment has been working alongside House Representatives to create the Student Voter Opportunity to Encourage Registration Act of 2009. The bipartisan bill, which will require all federally funded universities to offer voter registration during course enrollment, was sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio.

The bill was first introduced at the end of last year’s session and did not make it out of committee.

The Student VOTER Act calls to amend 1993’s National Voter Registration Act, which requires all license branches to provide citizens the opportunity to register to vote when applying for driver’s licenses. Through the Student VOTER Act, federally funded universities will be classified as “voter registration agencies” like the license branches.
IU Student Association Vice President Dan Sloat said he thought the Student VOTER Act was a good way to encourage young citizens to fulfill their civic duties and hopes it will encourage students to actively vote in local and student elections.

“It sends a good message to instill the culture of fulfilling a civic duty,” Sloat said. “I hope it will encourage campus voting, which affects students on a more personal level.”

Liz Bartlett serves as a legislative aide for Sen. Dick Lugar in Washington and is anticipating how the legislation will move through the 111th Congress.

“Since the reintroduction of the bill is new, I’m not sure of Senator Lugar’s stance, but he is a firm supporter of increasing voter registration,” Bartlett said.

The bill is currently in the House Committee on Education and Labor for review.

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