May 19, 2024

Despite a state law mandating voter registration in high schools, most 18-year-old Texans are not registered to vote, highlighting a significant issue in civic engagement among young people. David Dzul’s attempt to organize a voter registration drive at Houston’s DeBakey High School in 2019 underscored the lack of compliance with the law and the challenges in promoting civic participation among students. While Texas high schools are required to distribute voter registration forms to eligible students, many schools, including DeBakey High School, fail to do so consistently.

Most 18-year-old Texans aren't signed up to vote despite a law requiring voter  registration in high schools – Houston Public Media

Texas is home to approximately 409,000 18-year-old U.S. citizens, yet voter registration rates among young adults are low, with only 39.6% of Texans aged 18 to 24 registered to vote in November 2022. Even among registered voters, participation rates in elections are significantly lower for young adults compared to older age groups.

High schools play a crucial role in fostering civic engagement and establishing voting habits early on. However, compliance with the 1983 law mandating voter registration distribution is low, with only a quarter of schools estimated to be following the requirement. Many students report never receiving voter registration forms at school, indicating widespread noncompliance.

Additionally, recent changes in Texas voting laws, such as restrictions on teaching current events and history, have further complicated efforts to promote civic education and voter registration in schools. Senate Bill 3, passed in 2021, limits discussions on controversial topics and prohibits teachers from giving students class credit for public policy advocacy, creating barriers to comprehensive civics education.

Efforts to address these challenges include proposed legislation to improve voter registration in schools and initiatives led by universities and organizations to promote civic engagement among students. However, significant obstacles remain in ensuring that all eligible students are registered to vote and equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for meaningful civic participation.

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