Education Department Shared Activists’ Memo on Mobilizing Voters

Education Department Shared Activists' Memo on Mobilizing Voters

Biden administration officials circulated and discussed a memo authored by a coalition of liberal groups aimed at getting more college students to participate in elections as part of the Education Department’s presidentially ordered voter-registration efforts, newly surfaced emails show.

Groups that donated millions to elect Democrats and are funded by major liberal donors submitted a list of recommendations to the Education Department in 2021 outlining ways the department could get college students, a historically liberal demographic, to vote more, according to emails obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project. [Heritage founded The Daily Signal in 2014.]

The memo recommended that the Education Department include a voter registration option on its college financial aid application, use resources to make students aware of vote-by-mail opportunities, and allow universities to use federal work-study to pay students for nonpartisan election work.

The coalition of groups sent its memo in response to President Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order directing federal agencies to promote voter registration, education, and participation, offering recommendations on how to implement it.

Nick Lee, deputy assistant secretary for higher education, shared the memo with Annmarie Weisman, another deputy assistant secretary, and Gregory Martin, another department official, emails show. Lee explained to Weisman and Martin that he had been discussing ways to implement Biden’s executive order with an Education Department policy director and that he was willing to speak further on the topic.

Lee also shared the memo with members of the Education Department’s Office of the General Counsel, again explaining that the department was in the process of finalizing responses to Biden’s voting executive order, emails show.

The Biden administration may have been receptive to at least one of the recommendations the coalition of left-of-center groups offered.

In April 2022, the Education Department clarified that universities could pay students with federal work-study funds to engage in election-related work. Although students may be compensated for voter registration work, they cannot be paid using federal funds “for work involving partisan or nonpartisan political activity, including party-affiliated voter registration activities, as this is expressly prohibited,” the department said.

In February, the Education Department expanded on the specific work that federal funds could cover, stating that “supporting broad-based get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, providing voter assistance at a polling place or through a voter hotline or serving as a poll worker” were all acceptable.

Although Biden’s executive order stresses that agencies should tap “nonpartisan third-party organizations” to aid with voter registration efforts, the effects of registering more college students to vote could be a boon for the Democratic Party.

A September 2020 poll found that 70% of college students said they would vote for Biden in that year’s election, compared to just 18% who said they would vote for then-President Donald Trump. Strong turnout among college students in 2022 helped Democrats pull off a better-than-expected midterm election performance, NPR reported.

Heading into the November presidential election, Biden’s reelection campaign is seeking to mobilize college students.

The president held a 23-point lead over Trump among college students heading into the election, according to a Harvard Institute of Politics poll conducted in March.

The groups that sought to push the Education Department to mobilize more college voters themselves have ties to the Democratic Party.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, for instance, are both signatories of the memo and have spent millions of dollars to help elect Democrats through their political action committees, Federal Election Commission records show. Both groups endorsed Biden in the 2024 Democratic primary season and historically have supported the Democratic Party.

New America Foundation, which signed on to the memo through its education program, has received extensive support from the Soros family’s philanthropic network, pulling in millions since 2016, according to a grant database. George Soros himself has donated massive sums to Democrats and is one of the largest figures in the left-of-center philanthropic world.

The Voter Participation Center, another group that signed on to the memo, has received over $1 million from nonprofits managed by Arabella Advisors, tax filings show

Arabella Advisors is a consultancy firm that manages a network of nonprofits that spend millions every year on efforts to help liberal groups and Democrats.

The Voter Participation Center on its website claims to work diligently to mobilize members of the “New American Majority,” which includes people of color and unmarried women, to register to vote and cast ballots.

Republicans have taken issue with the Biden administration’s approach to using federal resources to juice voter participation.

“We have concerns about the lack of constitutional and statutory authority for federal agencies to engage in any activity outside the agency’s authorized mission, including federal voting access and registration activities,” a May 13 letter from the House Oversight Committee sent to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young reads.

The Education Department, New America, the Voter Participation Center, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers didn’t immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.