Governor Vetoes Out-of-State Student Voting Provision


Courtesy of Jeremy Poe

Members of the Oberlin College Democrats, College junior Nora Brickner, College first-year Eli Hovland and College sophomore Jack Benson work on a resolution opposing a provision in an Ohio bill over spring break during a J Street U conference in Washington, D.C. The provision, which opponents claimed would make it more difficult for out-of-state students to vote, was line-item vetoed by Governor John Kasich on Wednesday.

Elizabeth Dobbins, News Editor

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, line-item vetoed a provision in a transportation bill this Wednesday — a provision that some argued would, if put into effect, create unnecessary barriers to voting for out-of-state students. The Oberlin College Democrats, joining in the push to remove this provision from the bill, wrote a resolution in opposition that Student Senate unanimously endorsed over spring break.

“The reality is that we live here, and we deserve to have our say, and that shouldn’t be hindered,” said double-degree sophomore, Senator and member of the OC Democrats Jeremy Poe.

The language in the provision states that any Ohio resident must surrender their out-of-state driver’s license and plates within 30 days of becoming a resident. Currently, the state of Ohio does not provide a time frame for this, and Republican proponents of the provision argue that this language would bring Ohio in line with the 44 other states that have similar requirements.

However, opponents of the provision, including Poe and College junior and OC Democrats co-chair Nora Brickner, contend that the provision’s definition of residency — any person who has registered to vote in Ohio — does not have a precedent in this context and, unlike other states such as New York, does not exempt out-of-state students.

“Without [the actor] registering to vote subjecting you to these requirements, without that provision, it’s a very reasonable law,” Poe said. “It makes sense to codify and say you’re an Ohio resident. You have the same responsibilities as other residents. … It’s just that in the chain of dominoes that then happens as a result of things that fall, … it will suppress college students from voting … because it doesn’t exempt out-of-state [students].”

Kasich wrote in the veto message that the section, in addition to failing to provide a “provision for restoring” driving privileges, unnecessarily rewrote established criteria for determining residency, “which have been used successfully for many years.” He argued that any change to the criteria would be “potentially confusing to Ohioans and to government institutions.”

The decision to line-item veto the law means that over 2,400 out-of-state Oberlin students and 116,000 out-of-state students statewide will be able to vote in Ohio without surrendering their out-of-state driver’s licenses.

Brickner said, since students usually vote liberal, maintaining this voting pool is important for Democrats.

“The implication of this law is that if 100,000 out-of-state students can vote in Ohio, that could easily swing the state,” said Brickner. “Ohio is a swing state and arguably the most important state in any presidential election.”

Former OC Democrats co-chair and Legislative Aide in State Rep. Dan Ramos’ office Eric Fischer, OC ’14, called Brickner on March 20, two days after state Senate passed the bill with this last minute provision, and asked her to organize a response. Brickner and OC Democrats members Eli Hovland, College first-year, and Jack Benson, College sophomore, wrote the resolution at a J Street U conference in Washington, D.C. over break.

Student Senate endorsed the resolution and, though the support was unanimous, the senators agreed this provision would promote voter suppression but disagreed about the legality of the provision, according to Poe.

College first-year and senator Anjali Kolachalam signed the resolution but said she had mixed feelings about the provision after doing more research.

“On one hand I’m really glad that [Student Senate is] taking a stance on issues that are important to students because that’s what we’re supposed to do,” Kolachalam said. “On the other hand I’ll admit maybe I wish I had looked at it earlier so I could have looked at it more detailedly … but I also think it’s a good thing that we responded in a timely manner.”

Student Senate also publicized a petition that had received 1,050 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

Outcry against this provision extended outside Oberlin to the administration or student bodies of other colleges, including Ohio State University and Kenyon College, petitioning lawmakers and Kasich to remove the language.

Poe said Student Senate was also working with administration. College President Marvin Krislov did not issue a public statement before Kasich announced his decision but said he opposed the provision in an interview with the Review and expressed concern about the late addition of the language to the Senate Bill.

“There weren’t hearings,” said Krislov. “There was really no discussion. It was really sort of stuffed in. … Ideally you would want to have some discussion of the ramifications.”

Poe and Brickner raised other concerns about the implications of this provision, including the financial burden of the $75–100 price to register a car and obtain a state driver’s license. Additionally, students are included in the census data of the area where they attend college.

“When they take census data, college students … are included here as residents of Oberlin, Ohio, so the district lines are then drawn correspondingly incorporating us as part of the population. So we are already expected to be represented as part of this district,” Poe said.

Members of OCRL also discussed the provision at a meeting last Tuesday and, according to member John Kearin, OC ’13, the group had mixed opinions about the language.

Kearin, who has anarchist political views, said he opposed the bill because it disadvantaged one group of voters.

“It unfairly burdens one group while not hurting one group,” Kearin said. “In other words, students from out of state versus students from in state.”