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House Democratic Caucus asks Kasich to veto student-voting barrier in transportation budget

Proposed law change would make it harder for students to vote
March 27, 2015
Democratic Newsroom

The Ohio House Democratic Caucus today sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich asking him to veto a provision in the state’s transportation budget that would make it harder for students to vote in Ohio.

The provision will require anyone who registers to vote in Ohio to surrender their driver’s license if it is from another state, obtain an Ohio driver’s license and register their vehicle with the state. Failure to do so within 30 days results in a criminal offense.

Students and lawmakers have estimated that this imposes a cost of about $75 to $100 for out-of-state American students to vote for local issues and candidates that carry quality of life consequences for students and the communities in which they live.

The Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus sent a similar request to the governor following Wednesday’s Senate vote.

A copy of the letter is available below:

March 27, 2015

Dear Governor Kasich,

We write to ask you to use your executive authority to veto the provision tying voter registration to motor vehicle residency in Substitute House Bill 53. After careful review of this provision, we believe it is contrary to the best interests of Ohioans, specifically students attending college from out of state. The Senate amended version contains a provision requiring those who register to vote to also obtain state driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

This provision targets out-of-state students who attend Ohio’s colleges and universities, requiring them to jump through a number of hoops and pay unnecessary fees to participate in Ohio elections—or face fines and a criminal record.

This amendment forces students to pay $75 or more in order to register to vote in Ohio. The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all citizens including the right to travel and the right to vote. The 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Symm v. United States largely settled the right of college students to vote where they reside, including their college address, without undue burden.

Students would undoubtedly find it harder to vote in Ohio under this provision. In a state where barely half of registered voters show up to the polls, we should be doing everything we can to increase voter turnout—not erecting barriers to student voters. This provision sends the wrong message to students coming to Ohio to attend our schools. Forcing students to pay the equivalent of two new textbooks or more simply to register to vote in local elections is unfair. Targeting students at the ballot box is the fastest way to ensure they leave Ohio after graduation.

This provision does not belong in a budget bill. It does not belong in any bill. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voter intimidation such as using one’s voter registration status to target, investigate, prosecute and criminally punish anyone for unrelated matters. Vehicle registration and making students use dorm addresses on driver’s licenses should not be tied to voting in this way. Schools already provide proof of residence to every student in Ohio. Furthermore, The U.S. Census Department counts out-of-state students at their dorm addresses regardless of what their driver’s license reads, because residency for every purpose is not determined by one’s privilege to drive.

The hallmark of our voting system should be free, fair and open elections. With this provision, students taking the initiative to engage in the political process will be met with a system that is far from free—and certainly not fair. We ask that you veto this voting rights provision from Sub H.B. 53.


Minority Leader Fred Strahorn

39th House District

Assistant Minority Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze

15th House District

Minority Whip Kevin Boyce

25th House District

Assistant Minority Whip Nickie J. Antonio

13th House District

Rep. Michael Ashford

44th House District

Rep. Heather Bishoff

20th House District

Rep. Janine Boyd

9th House District

Rep. Jack Cera

96th House District

Rep. Kathleen Clyde

75th House District

Rep. Hearcel Craig

26th House District

Rep. Michael F. Curtin

17th House District

Rep. Denise Driehaus

31st House District

Rep. Teresa Fedor

45th House District

Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry

59th House District

Rep. Stephanie Howse

11th House District

Rep. Greta Johnson

35th House District

Rep. Christie Kuhns

32nd House District

Rep. David Leland

22nd House District

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan

58th House District

Rep. Michael O’Brien

64th House District

Rep. Sean J. O’Brien

63rd House District

Rep. John Patterson

99th House District

Rep. Debbie Phillips

94th House District

Rep. Dan Ramos

56th House District

Rep. Alicia Reece

33rd House District

Rep. John Rogers

60th House District

Rep. Michael P. Sheehy

46th House District

Rep. Stephen D. Slesnick

49th House District

Rep. Kent Smith

8th House District

Rep. Michael Stinziano

18th House District

Rep. Martin J. Sweeney

14th House District

Rep. Emilia Sykes

34th House District