Local Ballot Measures Shape Student Lives

Hannah Rasmussen, Contributing Writer

As Nov. 8 approaches, all eyes are on the presidential race. Almost every student on campus has been hounded by the questions: “Are you registered to vote?” and “Have you changed your address?” from eager activists. These questions are important because, as most people know, Ohio is a swing state and will play a crucial role in deciding our next president. Everyone says that “Your vote here matters,” and I couldn’t agree more. However, your vote matters on more than just the national level — local issues are also important in shaping the lives of students and community members.

I’ve lived in Oberlin since I was 2 years old, my childhood home is a 10-minute walk from campus, I am a graduate of the Oberlin City School District and a current sophomore here at the College. I love the city of Oberlin, and I love the College. These two communities have differences that I’ve been learning to navigate for the past 18 years of my life.

One of the most concerning issues I’ve heard around campus is the suggestion that College students shouldn’t vote in local elections. The argument that has been presented to me is that College students only live here for an average of four years, yet the effects of a vote may last much longer. While I understand this logic, I can’t comprehend discouraging people from becoming informed voters and active participants in the greater community of Oberlin. Many of these impending local races could affect students during their time at Oberlin.

This November, there is an incredibly important race between incumbent Congressman Jim Jordan and former Oberlin elementary school teacher Janet Garrett for Ohio’s 4th District congressional seat. This seat is fought for every two years. Whether you are in your last few semesters at Oberlin or your first, the winner will be your representative while you are at school. Oberlin is precariously situated in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the state. Despite being a primarily Democratic town, we have not been represented by a Democratic congressperson since the redistricting in 2012. Jordan is anti-abortion, opposes Obamacare and supports defunding Planned Parenthood. Garrett is running on a platform that supports clean energy, debt-free college and public universities and promoting universal pre-kindergarten and early childhood education. Either Garrett or Jordan will be your representative come January — you are entitled to vote to decide which of them will better represent your values.

Other important races include those of local judges, the Lorain County Commissioner and Ohio Supreme Court Justices. These are the judges that will oversee your hearing should you commit a crime, and they also rule on issues of local policy. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear cases on the death penalty, taxes and jurisdiction cases that often directly affect local citizens.

If students are educated voters, they have every right to vote on races of local officials and tax ordinances. Some argue that students shouldn’t vote on these issues because many of them don’t pay taxes here. But if you believe that any ballot initiative will benefit the community, then you have every right to vote on that issue. To read up on all of these issues and races, I suggest visiting The League of Women Voters of the Oberlin Area’s website; the organization just released its nonpartisan voting guide. They also have information on how to register to vote in Oberlin, as the registration deadline is rapidly approaching on Tuesday.

One of the most frustrating things I witness at Oberlin College is students’ attitudes toward the College and town divide. Yes, the town-gown divide exists. Far too often, students will come and live in this town for nine months of the year for four years and never try to involve themselves in the community or take the time to become informed voters. I appreciate that students who abstain from voting on local issues don’t want to impose their voices on issues that they think don’t affect them. However, it would be far more useful for them and the community to become educated on how these issues do affect us all, as both students and residents of Oberlin.