Ohio GOP lawmakers work to disenfranchise out-of-state college students with poll-tax-like budget provision

This week, Ohio Lawmakers (more specifically, Ohio’s GOP lawmakers) inserted a provision into the Transportation Budget that would require out-of-state college students attending universities in this state to purchase an Ohio driver’s license in order to register as a voter in the State of Ohio. Not only is this provision harmful to students’ abilities to engage in Ohio’s political process, but the requirement that they purchase a license in order to vote acts essentially as a poll tax, something undeniably prohibited by the Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court rulings.

This is not the first time that members of the Ohio GOP have tried to limit voter access to the ballot box. Before the Midterm Elections in November 2014, Ohio’s Secretary of State, Jon Husted, as well as Republican members of the Ohio Senate & House of Representatives, managed to eliminate an entire week of early voting. The revocation of what is known as”Golden Week” was a law-making decision that disproportionately affected African American and low-income voters (who traditionally favor liberal or Democratic candidates) in Ohio. Very strategic move by Republicans, don’t you think?

Many student leaders and organizations at The Ohio State University, as well as Ohio political leaders have spoken out about the residency provision in the Transportation Bill. On social media and in print, they’re voicing feelings of frustration, and urging the Governor to veto this bill for its tacked-on provision of disenfranchisement.

 

That’s not even the end of the story.

On Tuesday, March 24th, a number of student groups at Ohio State, including OSU’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG), College Democrats, the Multi-Partisan Coalition and even College Republicans released a joint statement expressing serious concerns about this provision. However, later that evening, it was announced that College Republicans had withdrawn their support of the statement, instead issuing a new statement regarding their stance:

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper (along with other progressive leaders) commented that it appears as though OSU College Republicans may have received pressure from leaders of the Ohio Republican Party to retract their support for the statement.

*Sigh*

Just one more instance of Republican leaders in Ohio stifling bipartisan action towards progress.