Registering students to vote in Texas? Do this first!

The next election may seem like a long time from now, but the best way to establish a successful program of high school voter registration is to have a student-led drive twice each school year, one in the fall and another in the spring. In fact, Texas law requires high school principals to distribute voter registration applications to eligible students twice each school year, but many schools do not comply with the law.

In Texas, holding a high school voter registration drive in spring semester makes a lot of sense because the minimum age to register in Texas is 17 years and 10 months.  More high school students will reach this age in the spring than in the fall.

The time to begin planning for your spring voter registration drive is now, especially in states like Texas that have special training and certification requirements for people who want to help others register to vote. In fact, everyone who is already certified in Texas must renew their certification after the end of every even-numbered year, like 2018. These certified volunteer voter registrars are called “Volunteer Deputy Registrars,” and if you want to improve Texas’s low voter registration rates by having a voter registration drive at school, you need at least one Volunteer Deputy Registrar (or the school principal or staff member designated by the principal) on your team.

In fact, Texas law allows only a Volunteer Deputy Registrar (or a high school principal or the principal’s designee) to collect completed voter registration applications and return them to the Secretary of State. Almost anyone who can vote in Texas can become a Volunteer Deputy Registrar. See the Texas Secretary of State’s Volunteer Deputy Registrar Guide for specific requirements.

To become a Volunteer Deputy Registrar, you must attend a training session or review training materials online then take a simple exam. Some counties like Harris County (Houston and surrounding areas) require aspiring Volunteer Deputy Registrars to attend a training session in person before receiving a “certificate of appointment.” The Harris County Voter Registrar has already posted the training schedule for January 2019 with a variety of dates and locations. Other counties like Dallas County allow Volunteer Deputy Registrars to review training materials online, then go to the registrar’s office to take the exam on any business day to receive a certificate of appointment. Dallas County also offers in-person training.

How do you prove you’re a Volunteer Deputy Registrar?  By having a “certificate of appointment” from your county registrar. Be sure to have your certificate handy. Texas law prohibits the collection of completed voter registration applications without an effective certificate.

So check out your county registrar’s website and register now for a training session or complete online training to hold a successful (and legal!) high school registration drive this spring.  

Vicki Shapiro