This story has been updated to reflect new information.
Instructors have been offering extra credit to students to get them to vote, despite the fact such offers are against the Ohio Revised Code, Athens County Board of Elections officials said Thursday.
Debbie Quivey, director of the Board of Elections, said the problem came to her attention when Ohio University students came in and were talking to election officials about extra credit. OU Spokeswoman Carly Glick said in an email "possibly two instructors" were involved, but the "extra credit incentives have not been confirmed."
“All the students who came in and told us about it were excited about it,” Quivey said. “They didn’t seem to feel pressured or anything.”
Quivey said while professors likely didn’t mean any harm, it is against the Ohio Revised Code to offer any incentive to encourage people to vote. Extra credit is specifically mentioned in a footnote of the Ohio Election Official Manual as “a thing of value,” which cannot be offered as
"(These) actions were well intentioned – the faculty in question were just very enthusiastic about the upcoming election," Glick said. "There was absolutely no advocacy for any party or issue. When (the university) learned about this, we informed the instructors directly that they cannot incentivize students to vote since this was potentially problematic."
Quivey said she sent a letter to Chad Barnhardt, assistant dean of students, to remind university officials of the state code. Barnhardt said a letter was sent from the Provost’s office Wednesday to all deans.
“A note was sent to all deans to remind them to remind their faculty that they can’t offer extra credit for voting,” Barnhardt said. “I don’t know of anyone’s intent, which is what I think matters here.”
Lindsay Hiatt, a senior studying
“She thought it was unfair that not everyone could get extra credit for that event, so she offered us extra credit if we emailed her a selfie with our voting stickers,” Hiatt said. “Then last night, she sent us an email that said the Athens Board of Elections emailed the dean and said she couldn’t do that anymore.”
The professor then rescinded the offer of extra credit.
Barnhardt said students who are offered extra credit should know they are not required to vote.
“Vote because you want to,” Barnhardt said. “You don’t have to do anything. Vote because you want to instead of for any other reason.
The Ohio Revised Code states offering people items of “valuable consideration” in order to get them to vote is bribery — a fourth-degree felony — but Quivey said she would “never press charges.”
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” Quivey said. “The average, everyday person probably doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with doing this, but you just can’t offer anything of value in order to get people to vote.”