Universities ask Senate to Kill Student Voting Amendment

The Joke Was on Ohio's Women: Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R) in 2011.
Speaker Batchelder says he’s concerned students might not be “up to speed” enough to vote.

Yesterday we estimated that a new amendment to the state budget (HB 59) aimed at limiting access to the ballot for college students could cost Ohio’s public colleges and universities $272 million. Today, those universities produced their own estimate — $370 million per year in potential lost revenue — and asked legislators in a Senate committee hearing to kill the amendment.

The amendment would require universities to charge in-state tuition rates to any student to whom a letter or utility bill is issued for the purposes of voting. But, as we explained, residency requirements for tuition and voting are very different. The effect would be hundreds of millions in lost tuition for Ohio colleges. Today, Ohio University said they stand to lose $12 million if the budget passes.

Cynically, the spokesman for the Ohio House Republicans — the authors of the amendment — tried to suggest that the measure’s aim was unrelated to voting, but rather an attempt to make college more affordable. But if his caucus was interested in making college more affordable, why have they cut funding for higher education in budget after budget? The House-passed version of HB 59 actually provides 9% less funding to higher education than the state spent a decade ago.

Even worse, the Speaker of Ohio’s House of Representatives directly undercut his spokesman’s claims, effectively admitting that the measure is indeed aimed at reducing turnout by college students, telling the Columbus Dispatch:

some out-of-state students may not be up to speed on local tax levies and other issues

We clearly skipped the part of the Constitution that states you have to be “up to speed” to exercise your right to vote.

We predict the measure will come out, thanks to intense lobbying by Ohio’s public universities. But efforts to suppress the vote clearly have not stopped.