For the first time, Ohio University will be taking advantage of technology to assist students living on campus who wish to vote in Athens.
To vote in Ohio, one has update their voter registration form with their current address each time they move within the state. The registered voter then has to provide some form of identification which may include, according to campusvoteproject.org/ohio, current and valid photo identification issued by the federal government or Ohio, such as a driver’s license; military identification with the voter’s name or a copy, or an original copy, of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document showing the voter’s name and current address.
For those students registered to vote in Athens who currently reside in a residence hall, though, those identification requirements typically presented a few hurdles. For example, not all OU students who register to vote in Athens have an Ohio driver’s license.
In the past, those students had to go to the Vice President of Student Affairs in Cutler Hall or the Dean of Student’s office in Baker to receive the proper documentation.
“This year, we decided to do this electronically,” Chad Barnhardt, the assistant dean of students, said. “What we’ve done is we’ve worked with the registrar’s office and information technology to generate letters that will go out to students that live on campus to verify their address.”
The letters will be sent automatically to students living on campus. Barnhardt added the university can only verify the addresses for students living on campus, because those are the addresses in its records.
Charis Johnson, a junior studying exercise physiology, said she already utilized the electronic request because she is eager to vote in a swing state.
“Coming here, I had no idea how it would go,” Johnson said. “I got the email, and I filled it out as soon as possible. It was actually a very easy process. I was worried, but it made it really easy.”
The Athens County Board of Elections began working with OU over the summer to develop the idea, Debbie Quivey, the Athens Board of Elections director, said.
Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones sent out an email Sept. 22 with a timeline for the process.
Documentation on OU letterhead will be sent out via email on Oct. 12 and Nov. 3 for students who are voting absentee and students physically going to the polls. Students living in the residence halls must print the letter and bring it to their polling location — Baker University Center Ballroom — on Nov. 8.
Lauren Elliott-Dorans, an OU political science professor, said she was excited about the new process, and the change was “many years in the making.” Elections during a voters’ college years are some of the most crucial, she said.
“If young people don’t vote in their first three elections, it’s unlikely they’re going to become consistent voters after that,” Elliott-Dorans said. “The best way to curate a lifelong voting habit is to make it possible and easy for young people to vote, especially in those first three elections.”
Elliott-Dorans said she always takes two forms of identification to the polls: her driver’s license and a utility bill. Because obtaining documentation from OU is more simplified through the electronic request, she said she would suggest all students take advantage of that opportunity.
“Removing any barrier we can for young people is so important because we’re not just talking about a single vote, we’re talking about a lifetime of voting we’re hoping to cultivate,” Elliott-Dorans said.
Originally published for The Post on September 29, 2016.