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Some State Lawmakers Worry Pandemic Could Stymie Civic Education Effort

The pandemic has played havoc with many aspects of education. Efforts to get high school students to register to vote are still moving forward, even though many schools are virtual.

Earlier this year, lawmakers made a number of changes to how elections will work in Virginia. Voters will no longer need an excuse to vote absentee, and ballots that are postmarked by Election Day will still count even if registrars receive them later in the week.

Delegate Mark Levine, a Democrat from Alexandria, is concerned another change might be in trouble now that most schools are virtual; a new law requiring public high schools to provide voting-age students access to register to vote. 

“It’s not simply telling them it's available but actually say, ‘Alright now at 2pm this Thursday we’re all going to complete an application.’ It’s actually supposed to be part of the curricula and to be given that opportunity," Levine explains. "So it’s a pretty strong mandate.”

Lucille Miller at the Commission on Civic Education says the League of Women voters in Richmond has created a program that’s one way to fill that mandate, and she says it’s available to any school that wants to use it. 

“We designed it to be a virtual program, and so we could quickly switch back if we’re able to get back into the schools," she says. "But yes it’s available to the whole state.”

Students who will be 18 on Election Day can apply to vote on the Department of Elections website.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.