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More Texas Schools Are Helping Students Register To Vote. But The Vast Majority Aren't.

Salvador Castro for KUT
Voters line up to cast ballots on the UT Austin campus last year.

The percentage of public high schools helping their students register to vote is up slightly, according to a new report by the Texas Civil Rights Project. 

The report, released Monday, found 38 percent of schools statewide either requested voter registration forms from the state or conducted a voter registration drive with a local group in the last school year. That's up slightly from 34 percent in the previous year.

Texas law requires schools to give eligible students the opportunity to register to vote at least twice during the academic year. 

James Slattery, a voting rights attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the five most populous counties in the state – Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis ­­– actually saw explosive growth in their efforts to register students. 

"These five counties have over 40 percent of the grade 12 population in the state of Texas," he said, "so the fact that we saw a substantial improvement in those areas, has kind of an outsized effect on the number of students that are being offered voter registration at some point in their high school experience."

According to the report, none of the five counties had more than 12% of schools request registration forms during the 2016 election. In Travis County last school year, 68% of schools requested forms or conducted a voter registration drive.  

Slattery said less populated parts of the state still need "serious help" from state officials to get the job done. He said the Secretary of State's Office should automatically send registration forms to schools rather than having the schools request them.

In the foreword to the report, state Rep. Celia Israel called the high school voter registration law "more vision than reality" and that it was "well past time for Texas to make high school voter registration a full reality in this state."

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