An amendment that’s tucked away in the proposed two year state budget is drawing criticism from college students who say it’s a way to take away their right to vote in Ohio. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles reports supporters of the amendment say it’s designed to make those students determine their residency once and for all.
There’s no doubt college students were a factor in President Obama’s win in Ohio last fall. Thousands of them turned out to vote….many brought in on buses furnished by Democrats. Fast forward to today. There’s a bill in the newly proposed two year state budget that would say if out of state students vote in Ohio….they should be considered Ohio residents when it comes to paying tuition. Mike Dittoe speaks for the Republican caucus of the Ohio house….the lawmakers who added the measure to the budget.
Dittoe: "A lot of our members have voiced concerns over the years about the fact that universities are supplying utility bills with zero dollars to go vote. This amendment does not prohibit that practice. What it says is that if you are doing that, you are also presuming that student is eligible to vote in Ohio and if that’s the case, they should also be provided with in state tuition."
Right now, if students register to vote in Ohio, they can do so with a utility statement furnished to them by their universities. But those students who use that documentation are not currently considered to be in state students for tuition purposes. Ohio State University President Gordon Gee says there’s a reason for that.
Gee: "Well, you know, those are two separate public policy issues."
Gee says voting eligibility is determined by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office but tuition is determined through the legislature. Gee won’t say whether he opposes the legislature’s plan to attach the two.
But Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank, says if every out of state student at Ohio State last year voted in Ohio and this measure was applied, the university would stand to lose about 73 million dollars. Of course not every out of state student voted in Ohio last year.
Stuart McIntyre is with the Ohio Student Association…a group that represents students who go to college in the buckeye state. He thinks requiring Ohio’s universities to forego thousands of dollars just so out of state students can vote here is something that would make Ohio’s colleges less attractive.
McIntyre: "If I was a student from out of state and considering coming to school here in Ohio, this is not the type of legislation that I want to see passed because it doesn’t really give me incentive to come here if I don’t have my voice represented in the political process."
Of course out of state students can always vote in their home states by absentee ballots and that won’t change under this plan. But many out of state students, like Kenneth Myers of Kansas, say they don’t consider their home state their home because they spend most of their time here.
Myers: " I feel that I more so deserve the right to vote here because this is where I pay income taxes, this is where I pay sales taxes, this is where I go to school, this is the community I’ve become a part of in four years."
Democrats don’t like the plan. Jerid Kurtz is with the Ohio Democratic Party.
Kurtz: "There’s an effort here. It’s a clear effort to chip away, not just in Ohio but nationally, at students or people who tend to vote Democratic or progressive."
Peg Rosenfield with the Ohio League of Women Voters says her group opposes this amendment too.
Rosenfield: "My objection to student voting is that not enough of them vote. They have a very low voter turnout and this will make it even harder. And that’s the purpose of it."
But Republican Dittoe says the purpose of this amendment is not to make it harder for students to vote.
Dittoe: "This is not about voting rights and this is not designed to vote and this first and foremost about in state tuition rates."
Dittoe says there are no plans at this time for the state to help reimburse colleges that might lose money is this amendment is passed.