Georgia lags behind in complying with voter registration laws for 18-year-olds

Sep. 20—WASHINGTON — Nonpartisan voting rights organizations The Civics Center and Fair Elections Center have released a new report, entitled Introducing Students to Our Democracy, evaluating how public high schools in Georgia and North Carolina are complying with their state's youth voter registration laws.

While citizens across the country can register to vote before the age of 18, very little infrastructure exists to support and promote voter registration in high schools. State laws in Georgia and North Carolina require public schools to make voter registration applications available to eligible students.

The report provides insight into how public schools in Georgia and North Carolina are complying with these laws. Key new findings include:

— In both states, public high schools' compliance with state law is positively correlated to 18-year-olds' registration rates;

— Factors such as multiple opportunities to register to vote during the school year, good communication with the student body about these opportunities, district leadership in registration opportunities, and district policies supporting high school registration efforts are key to increasing youth voter registration rates;

— Registration rates among 18-year-olds in North Carolina, where select districts generally comply with the law, are on average higher than Georgia, and those The Civics Center has calculated in select districts of any other state.

The report comes at an urgent time for youth voting rights, with all eyes on young voters as the nation approaches midterm elections. Research shows that our democracy's youngest voters have the ability to play a significant role in the outcome of these elections if they are registered.

"High school students are the newest members of our democracy, and the American education system has a responsibility to teach these young people how to participate in our elections," Mike Burns, national director of Fair Elections Center's Campus Vote Project, said. "These state laws exist to fulfill the promise of American democracy, and we know that they work when fully implemented. It's essential that all school districts comply with these laws and support students in this undertaking."

"Young people can be the agents of their own political empowerment when they create a climate in their school communities to support democracy and civic engagement," Laura W. Brill, founder and director of The Civics Center, said. "Roughly 1 million high school students nationwide will be old enough to vote in November, and schools have an ideal opportunity to put civics into action through equitable, inclusive, and nonpartisan programs that provide young people with the resources they need to register to vote."