Today State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D–Kent) and Democratic lawmakers stood with the League of Women Voters and an Ohio State student leader to denounce an attack on student voting rights included in the Senate’s version of the state transportation budget.
“This provision makes it harder to vote and has no place in the transportation budget or anywhere in Ohio law. It will punish students for exercising their most fundamental right,” said Rep. Clyde.
The provision will require anyone who registers to vote in Ohio to surrender their driver’s license if it’s from another state, obtain an Ohio driver’s license and register their vehicle with the state. The amendment appears to be aimed at the over 100,000 out-of-state students who come to Ohio each year and exercise their constitutional right to register and vote.
“With voter turnout at a record low in Ohio, we shouldn’t be making it harder to vote, especially through a bill that should be focused on funding our roads and bridges,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Instead of imposing new costs and requirements on voters, we should ensure Americans have free and fair access to the most basic right in a democracy— the fundamental freedom to vote. I was pleased that we were able to handle the residency issue last week, and I strongly urge the Conference Committee to remove these provisions.”
The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all citizens including the right to travel and the right to vote. And the US Supreme Court decision in Symm v. United States, 439 U.S. 1105, 99 S.Ct. 1006 (1979) largely settled the right of college students to vote where they reside, including at their college address.
“You can’t have it both ways—say you want to prevent brain drain in our state, but then create new ways to drive our college students away,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “The right to vote is one paid for in blood and it should be left alone.”
Last General Assembly, Republicans tried to force Ohio’s public universities to withhold from their students essential documents commonly used as voter identification by making the schools charge such students lower in-state tuition even if they are from out-of-state. The provision was removed from the state budget after vigorous opposition by Democratic legislators.