In strictly observing federal legislation about on-campus voter registration efforts, Yale is in the same category as only one-sixth of universities that responded to a national survey conducted in August by the Harvard University Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The University included a voter registration form with every undergraduate’s registration packet, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said. In doing so, Yale complies with the Higher Education Act of 1998, which mandates that colleges receiving federal funding request enough forms to register their entire populations of eligible voters at least 120 days before state voter registration deadlines and make a “good faith effort” to distribute these forms.
The IOP survey, released yesterday, indicated that only 16.9 percent of schools are in strict compliance with the law, though almost two-thirds have programs in place that “meet the spirit of the law” by making paper registration forms available or orchestrating voter registration drives on campus.
Prompted by the low turnout of the 2000 election, in which only around a third of America’s 26.8 million eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted, the survey sought to determine whether colleges were working to educate their students about campaign issues and the voter registration process.
The study cited complexities in the voter registration process, especially difficulties requesting absentee ballots — which 39 percent of students said they planned to do — as a greater deterrent to student voting than apathy.
The IOP survey noted that more than 88 percent of the colleges surveyed gave themselves a grade of “B” or lower in assessing their voter registration efforts and that comprehensive, Ph.D.-granting institutions were more likely than two- or four-year colleges to have voter registration programs in place.
Of the institutions surveyed — which, the report theorized, represented an overestimation of voter registration efforts nationwide, since schools with programs to report were more likely to respond to the survey — a quarter of public institutions and 44 percent of private institutions were out of compliance with the Higher Education Act.
Surveyors could not reveal whether Yale was part of the study because they withheld the names of participating institutions to encourage schools to respond.
Like 80 percent of respondent colleges, Yale hosted political speakers on campus last semester, and, like one-third of schools surveyed, Yale had a protest or rally on campus last semester.
Less than one-in-three of campuses surveyed have an on-campus polling location, a measure that the study listed as crucial to increasing voter turnout. Yale has an on-campus polling location in Dwight Hall.
The IOP recommended that universities add links to absentee ballots and voter registration forms on their Web sites and add a line to college applications asking whether or not the student intends to register to vote.
The survey was based on responses from 249 colleges on 23 questions.