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Suppose that I'm a social studies teacher in a high school in New York state. Odds are good that I'm teaching high school seniors about American history and politics. I want my students to get involved in the system that they're a part of. I tell my students that I will give them extra credit if they register to vote.

My Questions

  • Would giving this as an assignment be legal under New York state law?
  • If it's not forbidden under state law, could it be forbidden by individual counties, towns, districts, or schools?

Potential Complications

  • Privacy. Some students might be fine with registering, but not with telling me.
  • Citizenship. Some of my students might be undocumented, or might be on a foreign exchange.
  • Age. I know you can register if you're going to be 18 before election day, but some of my students might just miss the cutoff.

Assumptions and Facts

  • It's a public school.
  • I'd prefer to give out forms and have my students fill them out in class that day, but I could live without it.
  • I know exactly as much about my student's age and citizenship as I'm legally allowed to know.
  • It doesn't matter what offices are on the next ballot.
  • It would be a small and optional assignment; you could get an A in the class without doing it.

Giving out a grade for actually voting is beyond the scope of this question (and likely moot, since few people would be over 18 at the start of the academic year).

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    Students don't have to be undocumented or foreign exchange students to be ineligible to register to vote. They just need to be foreign. – phoog Mar 25 '18 at 13:48
  • Right, but odds are good that I'd know if a student is part of a foreign exchange program. Being undocumented is much more risky, hence there's more motivation to keep it private. So I might not know if a given student is undocumented. – JesseTG Mar 25 '18 at 16:34
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    Or a student might be the foreign child of a permanent resident, a temporary worker, or a diplomat, who might even have lived in your town since infancy, who might therefore be ineligible to vote despite seeming American by all outward appearances. Or a student might be an American citizen who lived outside the US until a few months ago and therefore is eligible to vote despite seeming foreign by all outward appearances. – phoog Mar 25 '18 at 16:51
  • ...ah. You're right. Hadn't thought about that. – JesseTG Mar 25 '18 at 16:56
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    This is a good question, but I dislike it in principle because, fundamentally you are offering an remuneration for a political act which cannot be earned by all of your students. It's not that you could get an A without it, it's if those extra point could have made the difference between a B and an A for a student who is prohibited to register. – Allan Mar 26 '18 at 4:44
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According to New York law ELN § 17-142:

Except as allowed by law, any person who directly or indirectly, by himself or through any other person:

1. Pays, lends or contributes, or offers or promises to pay, lend or contribute any money or other valuable consideration to or for any voter, or to or for any other person, to induce such voter or other person to vote or refrain from voting at any election, or to induce any voter or other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election for any particular person or persons, or for or against any particular proposition submitted to voters, or to induce such voter to come to the polls or remain away from the polls at such election or to induce such voter or other person to place or cause to be placed or refrain from placing or causing to be placed his name upon a registration poll record or on account of such voter or other person having voted or refrained from voting for or against any particular person or for or against any proposition submitted to voters, or having come to the polls or remained away from the polls at such election, or having placed or caused to be placed or refrained from placing or causing to be placed his or any other name upon the registry of voters;
... is guilty of a felony.

I think extra credit could be considered "valuable consideration".

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    Goodness, that's a lot of or's. – zibadawa timmy Mar 25 '18 at 9:07
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    'I think extra credit could be considered "valuable consideration".' Feels like that could be decided in court in practice, but this is clear enough for an answer. Thank you. – JesseTG Mar 25 '18 at 16:37
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    According to law.cornell.edu/wex/valuable_consideration "Valuable consideration may be non-monetary as long as it is of some value to one or both parties." Surely the extra credit is of some value to the student - otherwise why would the teacher even offer it, if they think the students don't want it? – D M Mar 26 '18 at 18:40

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