Home Politics Opinion: The Ohio GOP is suppressing the vote again

Opinion: The Ohio GOP is suppressing the vote again

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Once again, Republicans have been caught red-handed trying to suppress voters in Ohio.

This week, the Ohio Statehouse finalized its transportation budget for 2016 and 2017: HB 53. The bill passed unanimously in the House, yet when it went to the Senate for approval, Republicans added a new provision that was completely unrelated to transportation. It stated that any person from out of state registered to vote in Ohio must get a new Ohio driver’s license within 30 days of registration. They must also re-register any vehicles from out of state as well.

To the layman, this may seem reasonable, yet for one of Ohio’s more than 100,000 college students from out of state, this will seem like a nightmare. Students who are already forced to pay more on tuition to come to our state will now have to go through more bureaucracy and pay more money to exercise the right to vote. To make matters worse, if a student doesn’t get an Ohio license within 30 days of registering, they’ll have their home state license suspended and have to face even higher fines.

Why would Republicans put this massive hurdle on the constitutional rights of 100,000 people? It’s probably because the majority of young people vote Democrat. Unfortunately, Ohio Republicans have gained an unsavory reputation of limiting the right to vote, or at least making it more inconvenient for groups that tend to support Democrats.

In 2004, Ohio voters at universities and areas dominated by minorities found voting stations inadequately prepared, and voters sometimes ended up waiting 10 hours just to vote.

In 2012, Ohio’s early voting during the last three days before election day was eliminated until a court ruling overruled the decision. The secretary of state’s office also conveniently gave Republican counties better early voter hours and limited Democratic counties’ hours. Even after the public spoke out against these policies, they simply cut back early voting hours statewide.

It’s worth noting these policies in 2012 were put forward by our illustrious secretary of state, Jon Husted, who won re-election in 2014.

The Republicans won’t stop giving excuses for why they keep pushing policies that only hinder citizens’ rights to vote. They keep claiming the bill is meant as a way for outside residents to become citizens of Ohio. A Senate Republican spokesman said: “This has nothing to do with voting. It has everything to do with Ohio residency.” But if this were true, then why is it that over 100,000 young people who would have been able to vote much easier before must now pay money and jump through bureaucratic hoops and unnecessary costs just so the state can say these voters are Ohio residents?

This policy is a blatant infringement on students’ voting rights. For years, students from outside of Ohio have been able to vote in this state and still retain their home state ID cards. Yet now, because of the provision snuck into HB 53, all of these students will now have to pay money and work their way through the bureaucracy in order to fulfill their constitutional right. This is a poll tax, this is illegal and unconstitutional. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty from Ohio’s 3rd district put it best. “We just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and now our state legislature is attempting to remove a basic American right.”

This bill is already set to pass, and it will almost certainly be signed by Governor John Kasich. The only chance to stop this illegality is for students to act against it so Republicans know the people whose rights they’re suppressing aren’t to be played with.

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