Including Voter Registration Information in Syllabuses
One of the major goals when doing collegiate voting engagement work is to inspire a positive cultural shift in the way elections are viewed and talked about on campus. Meanwhile, one of the fundamental ways faculty share resources and establish community norms is through syllabus language (e.g., how to access disability services). Embedding language that educates students on how to register to vote and when the statewide period of voting begins is a strong step toward the goal of normalizing voter engagement on campus. Syllabuses provide unique access to all enrolled students. Faculty review them at the beginning of each class each semester, and students regularly revisit them throughout the semester. This resource will help you write a voter engagement section in your syllabi and also provides guidance for how to get institutional support for this initiative. Download a PDF of this resource here.
Sample State Syllabus Language
Here, we provide sample state-specific language from Michigan. We encourage you to adapt the following language for your state:
Voting in Michigan
- Register: Did you know you can register to vote and check your voter registration status at www.Michigan.gov/Vote?
- Vote: In Michigan, you can vote absentee in any election. You can request your absentee ballot at www.Michigan.gov/Vote (select “Absentee Voting” on the navigation page).
- Make a Difference: Sign up to work the polls on Election Day by contacting your local city clerk office (visit Power the Polls).
- For more information on registration and voting procedure, visit your campus resource page at [insert university voting information website] or www.Michigan.gov/Vote.
Sample General Syllabus Language
If you want to use general syllabus language that does not specify a state, please feel free to adapt the following language:
Voter Registration and Engagement
[Your institution] students are encouraged to register to vote and exercise their right to have a voice. The 1998 reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act includes a requirement that higher education institutions make a “good faith effort” to make mail voter registration forms available to all enrolled students. To register to vote and to check your registration status, visit Campus Election Engagement Project’s Voter Tool. If you have questions about your voter registration status, voting by mail or absentee, your polling location, or whether you are eligible to vote, please feel free to reach out to me or visit Campus Election Engagement Project.
Key Steps to Implementation
In terms of getting schools to adopt this approach, the exact route taken will vary depending on campus culture. However, all known attempts to date have taken a grassroots approach. Successful approaches have included legislation passed through student and/or faculty senate and lobbying of individual professors and college deans to include the language in their individual syllabi.
This resource is adapted in part from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force, which also has additional excellent suggestions, including a resolution to prevent exams and major project deadlines on Election Day.
Sample Email to Individual Faculty Members
Dear Professor [LastName],
My name is [Your Name], and I am a [job title] here at [institution]. I am dedicated to institutionalizing nonpartisan election engagement on our campus. We know that college voters consistently vote at low rates, and [campus nickname] are no exception.
Students are more likely to vote if they know how. You can help with this by giving them direct, nonpartisan information about registering to vote in your syllabi. By doing this, you are contributing to a more engaged community. Please consider adding the suggested language below for all your students:
[Insert syllabus language]
Teaching civic habits early leads to increased civic behaviors later in life. Faculty at institutions of higher education have a distinct duty to create and grow educated citizens, and I hope you’ll contribute in this easy way.