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Dems, Students Criticize Voting Clause In Transportation Bill

Voting booths
Some Ohio Democrats say the provision in the budget will intimidate and disenfranchise students.

Some Democratic state lawmakers say they might vote against the proposed transportation budget because of a provision they say would restrict voting rights by making it harder for some college students to vote.

Leah Lacura is a senior at Ohio State University. The student from New York says she lives in Columbus, pays taxes in Ohio and she’s voted in Ohio in the past.

But if a provision in the state transportation budget becomes law, she would be part of the estimated 110,000 college students in Ohio who wouldn’t be able to vote because it would require her to register her car here, and to get an Ohio driver’s license.

This condition would disenfranchise me from voting for those who govern me. This bill would make it so I would not only have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to change my driver's license and register my car, but it would burden me with unnecessary costs.

 “To complete both of these steps, registering my car and changing my driver’s license, it would cost me up to $160,” Lacura add. “And at a time when we are constantly talking about how to lower the cost of higher education and how to make college more affordable and accessible, it is amazing to me that we are considering that students should have to pay the cost of two textbooks just to vote for their representatives.”

Democrats, like Representative Kathleen Clyde, say this provision in the budget will intimidate and disenfranchise students. They say it is a violation of the federal voting rights act. And if it passes into law, the Democrats say there will surely be a lawsuit.

But John Fortney with the Senate Republicans says this provision is not limited to college students.

Forty-two other states and counting have some type of a timeline involved, a definitive timeline involved, on when someone moves into the state of Ohio, takes a job or otherwise becomes a resident, a timeline when they must then get a driver’s license for that state.

“That’s what we would like to do and we would like that timeline to be 30 days. Right now, there is no timeline,” Fortney says.

Fortney rejects the Democrats’ assertion that this plan would intimidate students, saying “They are just not being honest with Ohioans. This is strictly a residency issue.”

“If this was about residency, let’s give these students in state tuition,” responds Rep. Clyde.

In state tuition would allow out of state students to attend college in Ohio at a greatly reduced rate. But Clyde says lawmakers are not proposing that as part of this plan. She, and other Democrats, say they are likely to vote no on the budget when it comes to the House floor if this provision has not been removed from the transportation budget.