A Democratic state representative and advocate for voting rights says a last-minute addition to the state transportation budget would effectively suppress voting by students at Ohio’s colleges and universities. But a spokesman for Senate Republicans, who inserted the provision into the budget bill, defended it as merely regulating vehicle registration laws. The provision would require people who come into Ohio and register to vote to re-register their vehicles with Ohio after 30 days. If they fail to register the car with Ohio, then their driving privileges under their out-of-state license for any vehicle would be suspended and they would have to obtain an Ohio license to drive.
A joint House-Senate panel will take up the issue Tuesday. If it remains part of the bill, it would likely spark litigation against the state of Ohio, an expert on election laws says.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Portage County Democrat, says that provision could be burdensome on college students, who would be faced with the cost of re-registering their vehicles with Ohio if they want to vote from their campus addresses. That fee, approaching $100, would be a deterrent, she said.
“Not quite the welcome to Ohio that we’re trying to give them,” Clyde said. “If the reason is to make voting more difficult, I think that is very problematic and sends the wrong message to people that we want to move here and stay here and create their lives here. It also sends the wrong message to Ohio voters and about our respecting their right to vote.”