Shaheen Announces Support for Legislation to Help College Students Vote During Pandemic

August 05, 2020

National Emergency Student Vote Act Would Engage Colleges and Universities to Help Students Register and Vote in the 2020 Elections

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced her support for legislation introduced last month by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to help college students nationwide exercise their right to vote in the 2020 elections, even as millions are displaced from campus due to the pandemic. U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many colleges and universities to close their campuses, dislocating millions of students nationwide and complicating questions about where and how they will vote. As the pandemic continues into the fall, the urgency grows to help the approximately 20 million voting-eligible college students register and cast their ballot in the upcoming elections. The National Emergency Student Vote Act ensures that even if students are not on campus this fall, colleges and universities would still have to share resources to help them register to vote, request absentee ballots, and exercise their different options to vote depending on their preference and eligibility.

“The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated existing obstacles meant to keep students from exercising their civic duty,” said Shaheen. “As we continue our work to dismantle the barriers meant to suppress the student vote, it’s imperative that additional measures are taken to address new concerns posed by the COVID-19 crisis. This legislation will help students register to vote, access absentee ballots and make their vote count on Election Day. Every effort must be made to ensure every eligible American has access to the ballot box on November 3rd, and this legislation will help us deliver on that promise for our nation’s college students.”

The National Emergency Student Vote Act would: 

  • Help students register to vote. Under the Higher Education Act, colleges and universities are already required to send students “physically in attendance” voter registration forms where they attend school. The National Emergency Student Vote Act modifies the requirement to clarify that even if students are not physically on campus, colleges and universities should still provide them with the national mail registration form, along with credible, nonpartisan resources to help them determine where they are eligible to vote.  
  • Help students request absentee ballots. If a college or university has asked or encouraged students to remain off-campus, the legislation requires the institution to send absentee ballot applications to students along with clear instructions that they are only for those eligible to vote in that state. At the same time, it would also share credible, nonpartisan resources (i.e. Vote.org) to help students registered elsewhere apply for absentee ballots if they wish.
  • Help students cast their ballots. Thirty days before the election, colleges and universities would have to remind students about election-related requirements and deadlines, including deadlines to submit absentee ballots, along with current and credible information to help students understand all their options to vote, such as early voting and Election Day voting. 
  • Colleges and universities can satisfy each of the provisions above with a dedicated email to students containing the relevant information. 

The bill text is available here. A one page summary of the bill is available here

Senator Shaheen has worked to ensure Granite Staters and Americans are able to exercise their right to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Shaheen called on the Trump administration to take immediate action to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitizing supplies for election and poll workers—and voters—ahead of the November 2020 elections.  Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen sent a letter with a group of Senators to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging them to include $3.6 billion to help states expand vote-by-mail and early voting in a future COVID-19 relief package. In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which Shaheen helped to negotiate, New Hampshire received $3.26 million for state election assistance. Shaheen also rebuked the President’s recent comments about moving Election Day. In July, Senator Shaheen helped introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bipartisan bill would restore the landmark Voting Rights Act, end the scourge of minority voter suppression and help preserve the legacy of John Lewis – one of America’s greatest civil rights heroes.