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How a Texas school district helped students register to vote during COVID-19

4,349: The number of high school students who have received voter registration cards from Fort Bend Independent School District.

During the second week of March, when Fort Bend ISD (FBISD) schools closed for Spring Break, no one ever imagined that schools would still be closed six months later and the world would be in a state of “pandemic.” Everything that we knew to be normal had been replaced by social distancing, virtual meetings, wearing masks, and online learning.

With change comes opportunity. As a diverse and large school district, we recognized the importance of innovation, creativity, and flexibility. Like every other school district across the nation, FBISD reimagined how teaching and learning could be enhanced and carried forward for approximately 78,000 students in light of a pandemic, while also ensuring that the District remained in compliance with codes and regulations, including the Texas Election Code Sec. 13.046.

As Coordinator of Community and Civic Engagement in FBISD’s Department of Collaborative Communities, I devised an innovative plan to make sure our students were civically engaged and prepared to be active citizens for the District. In FBISD, our student’s academic achievement and education extends beyond the classroom.

So how does FBISD promote Compassionate Citizenship and voter registration during a pandemic? You get creative!

To ensure that students had an opportunity to register to vote in both the spring and fall of 2020, FBISD enlisted the following steps:

A celebratory graphic for students turning 18 from FBISD

  1. Sent students a birthday card! Students have been home for months with little to no socialization or peer interactions. Many did not even have a chance to celebrate their birthdays while being at home.  

  2. Determined students who would be 18 by Election Day. We determined which students would be 17 years and 10 months during each distribution window. 

  3. Ordered student voter registration applications from the Secretary of States’ office.

  4. Placed a voter registration application inside of each birthday card.

  5. Mailed out 4,349 birthday cards!

FBISD completed the birthday card process twice during the COVID-19 pandemic; once in the spring, and again in the fall of 2020. By mailing students the voter registration application, the District was able to remain compliant in conducting high school voter registration and able to connect with students in a special, meaningful way through birthday recognitions.

Over the next few weeks, FBISD will be launching a social media campaign to promote voter registration across the District. To help tie-in with the campaign, the Communications Department developed a logo for use on instructional resources via internal and external communications. 

Logo created by FBISD for their social media campaign to promote voter registration across the district

After the election season commences, FBISD, with the assistance of the Texas Civil Rights Project, will be evaluating the effectiveness of their high school voter registration efforts conducted by mail and online. 

Our hope is that other school districts can leverage the groundwork initiated by FBISD as a model program to promote active citizenship and engagement amongst their students.

Chassidy Olainu-Alade is the Coordinator of Community and Civic Engagement in FBISD’s Department of Collaborative Communities.

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