Election 2012

GOP worries about Ohio voting mischief among students

GOP worries about Ohio voting mischief among students

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The youth vote is important throughout the nation, but it is especially important in Ohio — a swing state, where the results in the presidential election are expected to be very close — and a state with a significant college student population.

The students have been courted by the candidates at rallies and, in the case of the Obama campaign, offered bus rides to early voting centers, complete with pizza. Giving rides to voters is legal, but offering something of value in trade for a vote is not, and the Republican Party has challenged the pizza practice by filing a complaint with the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Ohio laws guiding student voting are specific, but some see ways they create conditions for voting mischief. The Secretary of State’s web site explains that you may register to vote if you meet all of the following criteria: you are a U.S. citizen; you will be 18 or older on or before the general election date; you will be a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days immediately before the election in which you are registering to vote; you are not in jail or prison for a felony conviction; you have not been declared incompetent to vote by a probate court; and, you have not been permanently barred from voting for violating elections laws.

A Republican Party official in Licking County in Granville, Ohio, is raising concerns about Denison University.

In emails and telephone conversations with Human Events, Billie Fiore, Chairman of the Licking County Republican Party, explained that Democrats were aggressively registering Denison students to vote before the October 9 deadline. This is legal by Ohio law if the student’s campus address is their legal residence. The Ohio Secretary of State’s website explains “residence” as follows: “the location that you consider to be a permanent, not a temporary, residence; and, the place where your habitation is fixed and where, whenever you are absent, you intend to return.”

While students can vote early by mail or in person, here’s what could go wrong, and can’t really be determined until the election is complete: Are the students also registered in their home state where their parents reside? Did they also receive an absentee ballot there and if so did they, will they, vote twice? Because other states’ voting laws are not as open as Ohio’s, there’s no way to find out until after the election.

In some cases, Fiore and her volunteer researchers have noted the student’s permanent address is outside of the United States. Ohio law says: “If you were born outside of and continue to reside outside of the United State, but have a parent or guardian who last resided in and was eligible to vote in Ohio before leaving the United States, your parent or guardian’s Ohio residence would be considered your voting residence.”

Part of the frustration among Republicans in Licking County is the impact of the students’ vote on the local political scene.

The data gathered by Fiore and her volunteers conclude that there were 788 students newly registered to vote this year, and there are now a total of 1,714 students registered to vote at Denison. The small town of Granville only has 4,865 registered voters in total, including the students from the university. The predominantly Republican county has seen the elected officials in Granville become Democratic because the university students, who tend to lean Democratic, have a large impact in the outcome.

In Ohio, one can confirm that a person has voted early or absentee, and actually cast their ballot. Fiore intends to continue to research the student vote in Ohio to see if any irregularities occurred.

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