Ohio’s House Republicans last month passed a bill that would punish universities if they help students vote. Included in the regular budget, the proposal would force universities to charge out-of-state students the lower in-state tuition rate if the universities give the students a letter or utility bill proving they live at school. Ohio universities say that would cost them as much as $370 million each year.
To which Ohio’s House Speaker responded, verbatim, “That’s a rather gigantic amount of money, and I just couldn’t respond to it. I don’t know what to say.”
Meanwhile Republicans in the Ohio Senate have desperately been trying to slam the brakes on their colleagues’ plan. For one thing, $370 million is truly a gigantic amount of money. For another, the House Republicans would create an incentive for more students to register to vote, and students tend to vote Democratic. It seems that Ohio’s House Republicans had not thought about that part, either. From a Cincinnati Enquirer editorial:
Backers of the bill say they are rethinking the proposal because they hadn’t considered the unintended consequences.
So it never occurred to them that making it easier for out-of-state students to get the lower in-state tuition rate – indeed, requiring it if they want to vote here – would not turn them away from voting but might in fact encourage them to vote, precisely to obtain the lower rate?
In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students have the right to vote in person at college. The court said it is students’ constitutional right, under the 26th Amendment. Three decades later, Ohio Republicans are not satisfied with that. Republican State Senator Randy Gardner says the question of student voting belongs “in a separate election-reform bill,” reports the Columbus Dispatch.
Some senators share concerns that students who have no intention of living in Ohio after college are voting not only in presidential elections in a vital swing state, but also on local tax levies.
“To dismiss this as a nonissue would not be fair,” Gardner said.
Ohio’s Senate is expected to decide on changes to the budget, including the student measure, by June 5.