One of the most important elections college-age Ohioans will participate in is coming up in November and a new law could prevent some Ohio University students from voting.
New Ohio voter ID laws may impact how OU students vote in this upcoming election. On the ballot this November is abortion rights, Issue 1, and recreational marijuana use, Issue 2. House Bill 458, which was passed earlier this year, limits the eligible documents required to vote. The deadline to register to vote in Ohio is Oct. 10.
OU out-of-state residents will be affected by this bill because it will require them to obtain an interim Ohio ID to be able to vote in Ohio. Prior to House Bill 458, students could register to vote in Ohio with their college address, as they live in Ohio most of the year, and still use their out-of-state IDs as acceptable photo IDs at the polls.
Tony L Brooks. II, deputy director at the Athens Board of Elections, said that he thinks this could affect young voter turnout.
“Earlier this year they changed the voter ID laws so that may affect how some students are able to vote,” Brooks said. “If they have an out-of-state ID, that’s not an acceptable ID anymore.”
The interim Ohio ID would require out-of-state students to go to the BMV, wait in line and produce the appropriate documents to be issued this ID. The nearest BMV to OU’s Athens campus is at 1002 E. State St.
Kate McGuckin, a member of the Athens Board of Elections, said she feels it is a not-so-subtle form of voter suppression.
Absentee ballots are also viable for student voters, both Ohioan and out-of-state, who have registered to vote. According to ACLU Ohio, House Bill 458 also shortened the window of time one can request an absentee ballot in Ohio from the Saturday before to the Tuesday before.
According to OU’s 2022 fall admission statistics, 88% of freshmen enrolled last year hail from Ohio. Ohio absentee ballots must be requested seven days before the election –Oct. 31 – and either postmarked the day before or delivered in person by 7:30 p.m. on election day, according to VoteOhio.gov.
Pennsylvanians, or 3% of OU’s 2022 incoming freshmen, can request Pennsylvanian mail-in ballots by 5 p.m. Oct. 31, according to Pennsylvania voter services. The third largest state represented at OU, West Virginia with 1.4%, must be requested at least 6 days before the election, or Nov. 1, according to vote411.org.
Out-of-state students who request ballots from their home state would not be elligible to vote on Ohio’s student-related issues. Issue 1 would amend the Ohio constitution to allow all abortions deemed “viable” by a physician and extend legal protections to those receiving or helping with an abortion. Steve Patterson, mayor of Athens, sent out a call to action for young voters urging them to get out to the polls.
“I look to the generations that are not able to vote in this election, to where we’re protecting their rights to choose their own reproductive health care as opposed to state regulating or restricting access, which I think would be disastrous,” Patterson said.
Patterson has been very outspoken about his support of the passing of Issue 1 and said he participated in events with the League of Women Voters in Athens to get young voters to register.
Issue 2 covers the legalization of marijuana. If passed, this bill would allow Ohio residents over the age of 21 to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow the plant in residential homes. This bill would also create a 10% tax on marijuana sales which would go toward individuals who have been negatively affected by past marijuana-related crimes.
“I think the polls show the majority of Ohioans support the legalization of marijuana,“ McGuckin said. "Now whether they’ll go to the polls and do this, we have to wait and see.”