As new voting legislation moves through the Ohio government, many students might not realize that the voting requirements could become more stringent.
Many students living in the university district move locations from year to year, and some do not realize that this could effect when, where and how they vote.
“Students are transient. This is a big issue,” said Jacob Foskuhl, associate director of OSU Votes and a third-year in public affairs and Russian.
Foskuhl said one of the biggest issues is getting students to understand that they have to re-register.
“Some people may think they are already registered because they filled out a registration in 2008 in the dorms, but they may have since moved,” Foskuhl said. “We need them to realize that in order for them (to) vote at the polls, they need to register at their current address.”
Petitions are being circulated for Senate Bill 5, which Gov. John Kasich signed at the end of March, limiting the collective bargaining rights of about 360,000 public employees. The petitions have until June 30 to collect about 231,150 signatures.
For students’ signatures to be counted in the SB5 petition, they must be registered at the address that they mark on the petition.
Joey Longley, the campus region leader for SB5 petition-gathering and a second-year in economics and political science, said volunteers will be working closely with OSU Votes to educate students on how to get registered.
“We really want to focus on getting this issue on the ballot, as it affects every single Ohioan. Part of this is making sure the petition is being signed correctly,” Longley said.
Petitioners will be circulating voter registration forms during the petitioning process and those forms will be passed to the Board of Elections before the signatures are counted, said Greg Schultz, chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party.
Another issue for student-voters to consider before November is how House Bill 159 could affect their voting.
HB 159 is the voter ID bill, which, if passed in the Senate and signed by Kasich, would require all voters to present at the polls one of four valid photo IDs: military ID, U.S. passport, Ohio state ID, or Ohio driver’s license. State-issued university IDs would not be an acceptable form of identification.
Present law allows for voters to cast ballots if they simply show proof of address, such as a utility bill, bank statement or worker pay stub.
“The example I always remember is in the 2008 presidential election, a student brought the cardboard top of his mother’s care package she had sent him to the dorms because it had his current address on it, and this worked,” said Rep. Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus, former director of the Franklin County Board of Elections and current representative of Ohio’s 25th House District, which includes areas near campus and the Short North.
Stinziano said he believes that if HB 159 passes, there will likely be an increase in provisional voting. The bill was passed by the full House on March 23 and is now making its way through the Ohio Senate.
Provisional ballots are issued to people who do not present correct forms of ID or whose voting eligibility is in question. These ballots might not be counted for days after an election.
“There is a high provisional voting for students on campus already,” Stinziano said. “I think it’s everyone’s preference to not have any hurdles and know that their vote is being counted just like everyone else’s. With HB 159, they will be voting even more provisionally.”
Foskhul said this would be extremely difficult.
“The current address part of voter registration is already tricky enough and requiring a valid photo ID will be even harder,” Foskhul said. “Students don’t get IDs every four to six months when they move.” Others disagree about the likelihood of HB 159 affecting the way students vote.
“Last time I checked, college kids were mobile, competent and capable of getting themselves to the DMV and getting identification,” said Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, R-Cincinnati, who introduced HB 159 in March.
“When I was at the board of elections, we took into consideration that a lot of college and university students are a little unique when it comes to factors that impact their voting, like address,” Stinziano said.
Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Democrat, worked with the university to help educate students on voting and voter rights, Stinziano said.
“One of the initiatives we did was work with OSU housing during freshman move-in last year. We made sure there was a voter registration on every desk, voter information from the secretary of state and information about the Voter’s Rights Institute,” Foskuhl said.
Although there has been a change in secretary of state and current Secretary Jon Husted, Republican, has only been in office for just more than 100 days, steps are being taken to reach student-voter audiences, said Maggie Ostrowski, communications director to Husted.
“The secretary of state wants to introduce an election reform bill that would allow individuals to register to vote and to submit address changes online. This is more of a convenience for people who use the Internet and easier than having to mail in a registration,” Ostrowski said.
Other initiatives include using social media to keep students and young voters updated on voting procedures and important deadlines.
“We are trying to think about where young people go to get information,” Ostrowski said. “We have a Facebook, a Twitter and a YouTube now; this is about educating young people.”