Don’t Penalize Ohio Universities for Helping Students Vote

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Target: Ohio Legislature

Goal: Stop the penalization of Ohio public universities who help their students register to vote.

Ohio Republican representatives are attempting to pass an amendment to the state budget bill that would penalize public universities for providing students with the necessary documentation to help them register to vote. Ohio laws currently require that voters be a state resident for at least 30 days immediately prior to the election. The voter must provide a document such as utility bill or bank statement that proves residency in addition to a photo ID. Many college students who live on campus cannot provide such documentation, despite the fact that they have lived in the state for 30 days or more. Because of their unique situation, many public universities provide the students with a letter or utility bill in order to meet the requirements. If the new legislation passes, the universities who provide documentation would be forced to charge out-of-state students the same tuition paid by in-state students, costing schools an estimated $272 million.

Republican proponents of the provision claim that it would resolve differences between the requirements for in-state tuition and voter registration. But because Ohio has about 24,000 out-of-state students and a recent history of close election outcomes, this type of legislation appears to be a thinly veiled attempt by the GOP to keep young people from voting. This attempt to give the GOP an advantage in future elections is compounded by the fact that young people generally tend to vote Democratic. The Republican party’s ability to stop an estimated 24,000 out-of-state students from voting could have a potentially significant impact on future elections. University officials say that this is an inappropriate use of in-state tuition as a mechanism in a voting bill and that a prior secretary of state had even requested that they provide students with voter documentation.

This amendment unfairly targets students and seeks to punish universities that help their students participate in the democratic process. Sign the petition below to tell the Ohio state legislature to respect the voting rights of all people, regardless of their age or voting preferences.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear members of the Ohio Legislature,

The pending provision to the state budget bill regarding student voter registration requirements, universities, and in-state versus out-of-state tuition will not “streamline” any discrepancies. It unfairly conflates tuition prices with voting ability by seeking to punish public universities for providing students with the necessary documentation for voter registration.

This legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt by Republican representatives to suppress young people’s ability to vote. Winning Ohio has been crucial for presidential elections in the past. Looking at the 2012 election, President Obama won Ohio by 166,000 votes. The voting ability of Ohio’s estimated 24,000 out-of-state students could have a potentially significant impact on future elections. It is no secret that young people generally tend to vote Democratic, which makes college students an obvious target for voter suppression by the GOP. Clearly the goal of this legislation is to pressure public universities to stop supplying the documents to students, thereby decreasing the amount of young voters in Ohio. If universities do not comply with the proposed law, they would lose an estimated $272 million, which would impact the number and quality of services provided by universities. Students lose either way.

The ability to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, which is why voter suppression must be taken very seriously. By providing students with the necessary documentation for voter registration, Ohio universities are helping students participate in the democratic process. By passing this piece of legislation, Republican representatives are attempting to thwart young people’s ability to vote, apparently because they are unlikely to vote Republican.

The Ohio Legislature must respect the voting rights of all people, regardless of their age or voting preferences. We demand that this nonsensical, unjust provision be struck down from the state budget bill.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: kristin_a via Flickr

Sign the Petition

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82 Signatures

  • Eric von Borstel
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  • Hermann Kastner
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