Republicans are trying to legally rig elections: Ohio Edition

By now, Americans no strangers to the variety of inventive and ill-conceived ways that Republican state legislators have found to build barriers to the ballot box. AMERICAblog readers already know about the attempt to tweak the rules for electoral votes in Michigan and Nebraska, along with poll taxes in North Carolina and voter ID laws in around the country — laws that have altered electoral outcomes in Mississippi and Virginia. But now Ohio Republicans are pushing a new kind of voter suppression – one specifically targeting students in the Buckeye State.

Late last week (and almost by accident), it was discovered that the otherwise routine Transportation and Public Safety Budget (known as House Bill 53) contains a rider that would require anyone registering to vote with a non-Ohio driver’s license to obtain an Ohio license within 30 days or surrender their license altogether. The fees for such a change are upwards of $100 dollars, including the time and effort required to go through the process.

Even with an imminent House vote that would send the bill to the Governor’s desk, plenty of technical questions remain about the measure’s effect if for no other reason than that it was included so late in the process that there was hardly time for review. Representative Kathleen Clyde (D), who has been vocal in her dissent for this measure, told ThinkProgress that there was barely time for “vetting or public comment.” The bill’s passage early on with bipartisan support reflects a lack of knowledge about the full ramifications of the amendment.

While this would affect a variety of groups in Ohio, including retirees with out of state licenses and young émigrés saving money by letting their current registration expire, the group most clearly affected is out-of-state college students. The $100+ registration fee would effectively create a poll tax for more than 100,000 students whose right to vote from their college address has been upheld since Symm v. United States in 1979.

(Republican) defenders of the requirement would point out that students can still vote absentee to the state where they have their current license, but that’s irrelevant: Enrollment in a 4-year institution constitutes a vested interest in voting in the states they study and work in. In other words, students have a right to vote. Period. For free and on campus, if they so choose.

Furthermore, an innocuous Transportation Bill is an unexpected vehicle for voter suppression, especially when Republicans haven’t exactly tried to hide it in other states. Could this really be, as Ohio House Republicans are suggesting, just about residency requirements? More likely, they were hoping no one would notice.

The Republicans can surely see the electoral upside. President Obama won Ohio by little more than 100,000 votes in 2012, and 18-29 year-olds nationally favored Democrats by a 23-point margin. If this measure sticks, and 100,000 votes are taken out of Ohio in 2016, it’s certainly going to hit Democrats harder than Republicans. The affected students’ electoral preferences skew Democratic, and attempts to keep them from the ballot box are transparently political.

The timing is certainly convenient: the budget is typically a two-year bill, meaning that absent any review or legal challenge to the provision buried in this one, it would stick around until 2017 – right after the general election. Governor John Kasich’s shellacking of Ed Fitzgerald this past year has bolstered his credentials for a 2016 run for the White House (for what it’s worth, he’s on an east coast tour right now), and this measure will make it easier for any Republican nominee to secure the important swing state.

House Bill 53 hasn’t stopped, and shows no signs of slowing. In a state that’s already faced reductions in early voting hours and restrictions for minor party participation, this is yet another ham-handed attempt to legally rig elections in Republicans’ favor.


Sam Whipple is a Junior at Kenyon College from Manhattan's Upper West Side. He has worked for President Obama's 2012 campaign, the Ohio Democratic Coordinated Campaign and Gale Brewer, the best public servant in New York. He writes about electoral politics, Congress and public policy.

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40 Responses to “Republicans are trying to legally rig elections: Ohio Edition”

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  2. Laura McClure says:

    Gov. Kasich vetoed the provision targeting out-of-state college students, so, for now, until Republicans come up with another voter suppression scheme, out-of-state students who register to vote will not have to get an Ohio driver’s license.

    http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/04/01/ohio-transportation-bill.html

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  5. Demosthenes says:

    Perhaps the next time the Democrats take control of Ohio’s government they can point to this rule (assuming the Ohio GOP- controlled government passes it) and require that all listeners of talk radio and viewers of Fox “News” must walk to voting precincts.

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  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    I agree, except that I think it should be part of a Civil Rights Amendment and provide for robust punishments and penalties for those who discriminate and practice violence and an easy path to proving charges of discrimination, hate speech leading to violence, harassment and violence.

    ENDA is a joke because Democrats gutted it. Democrats are a joke becasue they gutted ENDA, pandering to the right and the cults, as they always do.

    I mention it, not because I like the exemptions your party inserted in its wording or because of your party’s history of trying to exclude trans folks but because it’s the only thing out there.

  12. Bill_Perdue says:

    Democrats are not democratic.

    Socialists don’t vote for Republicans because they’re just as bad as Democrats.

  13. ComradeRutherford says:

    No Serious Democrat would ever even dream of challenging a Republican. Democrats know that their job is to betray the voting base to make sure Republicans always win.

  14. ComradeRutherford says:

    Welcome!

  15. ComradeRutherford says:

    The last thing Republicans want is people voting.

  16. The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition and many of our partner organizations are petitioning Governor Kasich asking him to line-item veto this harmful provision in the transportation budget. Please sign and share this today! http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-kasich-please

  17. kurtsteinbach says:

    The Secretary of State didn’t resign because she got caught. She resigned to run for Congress. She won her election, but is no longer in office (a measure of justice, Karma).

  18. kurtsteinbach says:

    Why can’t you say or write the word Democratic or democratic politicians? It is an adjective. You have no problem saying Republican leaders, but you cannot or will not say Democratic leaders. Democrat is a noun, not an adjective. Say, “Democratic leaders!” I know you can do it. Your attitude is very antidemocratic. If you dislike Democratic leaders so much, then go vote for Republicans. That’ll teach those Democrats. . . .

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  20. 1nancy2 says:

    H, Mitt was such a nasty, unlikeable pr*ck and Ann was no better. Heck, they have a car elevator in their manse. Sure, they understand the poor and working class; not. These repubs. have a lock on mean, nasty, hateful and stupid and? They win all of the time, which tells me people vote against their own best interests and it never changes. If a repub. is Pres., they will go back to their dismantling and privatizing programs for the 99%, esp. O. Care. Not much we can do and oh? The S. Court will veer far right, just they way it was going under W. and his boss, Cheney. The working class was/will be/ and is scr*wed.

  21. Houndentenor says:

    ENDA is a joke. sexual orientation and gender expression should be added to all civil rights legislation, not a watered down bill with so many exemptions that it’s virtually worthless.

  22. Houndentenor says:

    ’00 was a clusterfuck in Florda (like everything in Florida it seems) but Ohio ’04 is a clear case of fraud. So why wasn’t that a bigger news story. If I hadn’t lived in Ohio for awhile I wouldn’t know that much about it. Why are we still more focused on FL than OH.

    About Rove, I think hat’s partly true but I also think that Rove was using outdated turnout models and the Republicans were thinking that African Americans were so disappointed in Obama that they would stay home (because Romney was going to be SO much better for them). Romney really did think he was going to win which is why he was in Pennsylvania the last week rather than Ohio. That he and his team were that divorced from reality is reason enough that he should not have been president.

  23. This is my first day to this website. i like this very much.

  24. 1nancy2 says:

    H, Yes, Kenny Boy Blackwell stole OH and got away w/ it. Also, K. Harris and Jeb stole FL ’00 and that hideous, Rove tried again in OH ‘ 12; Anonymous foiled him. These monsters have to lie, rob, steal, rig in order to win. There is no other way for them. Creeps.

  25. Bill_Perdue says:

    Democrat politicians are Republicans in drag. On all the key questions – wars of aggression, ENDA, union busting, attacks on the Bill of Rights – they’re in total agreement. You didn’t address that question because you can’t. Democrats are losing because they’re a right wing party moving in lockstep with Republicans further and further right.

    Socialists don’t vote for Republicans because they’re just as bad as Democrats.

    “The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.” Obama, in an interview with Noticias Univision 23. ABC News, 12 15 2012
    http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/obama-considered-moderate-republican-1980s/story?id=17973080.

    Once in office, Obama chose:

    – three successive White House chiefs of staff who’d made fortunes in the financial industry: Rahm Emanuel (amassed $16 million within a couple years of exiting the Clinton White House), William Daley (JPMorgan Chase) and Jacob Lew (Citigroup/now U.S. Treasury Secretary).

    Wall Streeters to dominate his economic team, including Clintonites like Larry Summers as chief economic advisor and Peter Orszag as budget director.

    – Monsanto executives and lobbyists for influential food and agriculture posts.

    – a corporate healthcare executive to preside over
    healthcare “reform,” while allowing pharmaceutical lobbyists to obstruct cost controls.

    – an industry-connected nuclear power and fracking enthusiast as Secretary of Energy.”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/15/hrcs-candid-motto-for-democratic-party-represent-banks/

  26. Houndentenor says:

    What do you think the chances are that this court would rule against the voter ID laws? And even if we won, that’s 10 years away. So yes, in the meantime we need to get everyone an ID and get them registered. i hate it too but I’d rather win than take the high ground and deal with the fallout from even more GOP control.

  27. Houndentenor says:

    Well they got away with it in 2004. (Okay the Secretary of State had to resign but they stole an election.) It’s not surprising they are pushing farther.

  28. BeccaM says:

    Patronizing much? Don’t presume to lecture me.

  29. kurtsteinbach says:

    No, they are not indistinguishable, but thanks for buying into the GOP narrative that the GOP and the Democrats are the same. Thanks for being part of the reason the GOP is winning. It’s a false equivalency narrative, and people like you, know better, yet you’re feeding that narrative anyway. I’ll admit I don’t always agree with Democrats or my fellow liberals; however, I don’t vote GOP; I argue against the GOP “versions’ and “beliefs,” and I question almost everything the GOP does out loud. When I disagree with my fellow liberals and Democrats, I am more discreet. It’s one of the ways in which Democrats and the GOP differ. We don’t eat our own. . . .

  30. kurtsteinbach says:

    Ehhhh. . . . Wrong answer. It’s not an unwritten exception. In most states, it is an explicitly stated exception written in law.

  31. kurtsteinbach says:

    Actually, every Voter ID Law and restriction has been challenged by Democratic groups and by the Democratic party itself in each state and by the DNC itself in Court. If you’d read the article, it’s an Ohio Democrat raising a stink about this. This particular statute has not yet been challenged in Court, and you’d understand why if you understood that you cannot mount a Court challenge to a statute that is not yet a statute because it has not yet been passed or signed into law. It can be blocked in the Ohio legislature, and that is the intent in publicizing this. If you really are in favor of unrestricted voting, then you’d be calling out the GOP for this crap; instead of attacking those on the other side of the aisle who are opposing them. I’m a liberal, and it does no good to attack people on your own side. In fact, it is quite demoralizing to do so. By the way, this is precisely the kind of thing the GOP hoped hosting their convention in Ohio would buy them. . . .

  32. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s not true. People who might have voted for Democrats now abstain in large numbers because Democrats and Republicans are largely indistinguishable. Democrat politicians and their right wing politics are to blame for that.

    They have the same program as Republicans on refusing ENDA or a CRA, wars of aggression, union busting and attacks on the standard of living of working people and the creation of a police state. And then they blame their turnout on ‘ignorance’ or ‘voter apathy’ when the real reason is that people just don’t want a right wing party – whether Democrat or Republican – and will stay home rather than vote for rightists.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s campaign season, which is now the season of the PACs and Democrats and Republicans will be engaging in their usual round of dirty tricks to control the undemocratic Banana Republic
    we live in.

    The US is not a democracy. Until the Great Betrayal of 1877, when Democrats and Republicans
    shut out the black vote and were effectively taken over by the rich the US was a very limited democracy that excluded women and always favored the rich. Now it’s not a democracy at all it’s a plutocracy.

    Today votes are rigged to insure control by the Democrats and Republicans, whose only real constituents are the very rich and their PACS. “In 2012 super PACs were used as blunt instruments of destruction: the group backing Mitt Romney devoted about 90% of the $142 million it spent overall to TV attack ads. But in the 2016 presidential race, these organizations are poised to play a much bigger role, taking over more-traditional campaign duties ranging from field organizing and voter turnout to direct mail and digital microtargeting.”

    “The new crop of super PACs are now pushing boundaries in ways that were unimaginable
    just five years ago.”
    from Time via Teagan Goddards Political Wire

  34. BeccaM says:

    And yet the Democrats reaction is never “Let’s challenge this anti-democratic BS in court and roll it back and find ways to fight it” but rather “Let’s get everybody their IDs.”

    As if accepting the premise there is or ever has been a legitimate necessity for producing a photo ID in order to vote.

    It’s like they don’t even care that no matter how extensive their Oprah-esque “Everybody gets a photo ID!” efforts, they’re still fighting on the GOP’s side of the field. Ceding the point that it’s okay to deny people the right to vote. They’re not even fighting defensively (which would itself be a mistake) but merely reactively, as if stopping it isn’t even possible or important.

    The Republicans have been conducting a slow-moving coup against America’s former system of representative democratic government since Bush v. Gore, and the Dems continue to behave as if it’s all business as usual, as if ‘messaging’ is their only problem here.

  35. Naja pallida says:

    All states have a requirement that anyone who changes residency to the state must get a new driver’s license. The grace time period varies by state, some are as low as 10 days, some as high as 90 days. Out of state students and military have always been kind of an unwritten exception to the law, and were permitted to drive with an out of state license, as long as it was currently valid.

  36. iamlegion says:

    would require anyone registering to vote with a non-Ohio driver’s license to obtain an Ohio license within 30 days or surrender their license altogether..

    Here’s a question for the lawyerly types in the crowd: Does Ohio have the right to force people to surrender non-Ohio granted licenses? Doesn’t that violate some sort of reciprocity aspect of the Constitution?

  37. FLL says:

    “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”
               — Woody Allen

  38. 2patricius2 says:

    Unfortunately, this is all too true.

  39. Jonas Grumby says:

    Dems didn’t vote. Dems don’t vote. They are deserving of this nightmare.

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