State Senator Randy Gardner is telling anyone who will listen that the measure added to the 2-year state budget to crack down on universities that help students vote will be going away. In a committee hearing last week, Gardner, Chair of the Senate Finance Education subcommittee claimed that all seven members — Republican and Democrat — on the panel were opposed to the measure and that he personally had authored an amendment to remove it.
“There seems to be a lot of intensity behind that issue,” he said in an interview. “Most senators I’ve spoken with are strongly against that provision and I think there’s significant support on both sides of the aisle to take it out.” [source: Gongwer]
It’s a welcome development, but it’s too early to celebrate a victory for voting rights.
It’s not surprising lawmakers are backing away from the ill-conceived voter suppression scheme, given how dearly it would cost Ohio’s public colleges and universities — $272 million according to our estimate. But there are indications that party leaders in both the House and the Senate are intent on finding another way to approach the issue of student voting.
Particularly disturbing were comments by Ohio House Speaker, William Batchelder in the Toledo Blade:
“The real issue for local areas in particular [is], what happens when somebody from New York City registers to vote,” he said. “How do they vote on a school levy? How do they vote on a sheriff’s race …? To me, there is a significant question, particularly the levies, as to what having people who don’t have to pay for them would do in terms of voting on those things.”
Does Batchelder also intend to cut off voting rights to people transferred to Ohio on business? What about military families who live here for a year or two? Those voters, too, will not necessarily be up to speed on the key issues in the next race for sheriff.
But if a solid grasp on issues were really a prerequisite Ohio lawmakers want to impose on voters, we’d probably have to reconsider extending voting rights to the 15% of Ohio Republicans who think Mitt Romney killed Osama bin Laden.
Clearly, lack of information on the part of student voters is a distraction. The fact is, young people reliably lean toward progressive candidates and issues. And they are the only category of less-informed and/or newly-minted Ohioans whose voting rights GOP leadership have so far questioned.
A substitute version of HB59 is expected to be adopted by the Senate on Tuesday, before the measure heads to a conference committee where final tweaks are made behind closed doors. We won’t know until the end of June whether the bill Governor Kasich contains these or other limits on voting rights in Ohio.