Voter registration changes leave students confused

AARON SKUBBY, Asst. News Editor—At the beginning this year, Denison students will now need to register to vote with their dorm address rather than with their Slayter Box. The school was previously directed by the Secretary of State to register students at the student union. That directive has now changed, with the Secretary of State encouraging students to register at their dorm address. 

The Secretary of State website explains that “when a college student registers to vote from his or her school address, the school residence is considered to be the place to which the student’s habitation is fixed… any other previous residence for voting purposes is no longer valid.” 

This means that students will have to go through the process of registering to vote every single year due to their dorm changing, whereas in the past they only had to register once as First-Years.

Some Denison students expressed concern about the changes. 

In an interview, Grace Horn ‘20 and President of Denison Democrats gave her opinion. “This is a form of voter suppression,” she said. “Due to the time we return from summer break, it is nearly impossible to register the student body in time for the election.” 

Campus political involvement organizations are concerned that instead of trying to only register freshmen, they must now work to register the entire student body that is choosing to vote on campus. 

This change comes in the aftermath of attempts by Granville residents to limit the ability of Denison students to vote on campus. In 2018, an income tax referendum was narrowly approved for the Granville school district. The referendum saw 69.29% support in Granville Precinct C, where Denison students vote.

Following the election, Granville residents Lisa Englefield, Paul Jenks, Paul Rice, Victoria Sugar-Kessler, and William Wilken submitted a letter to the board of elections claiming that Denison students were permitted to vote using an invalid form of identification. In their letter, the petitioners argued that Denison “is not a utility and does not issue utility bills except on the occasion of an election.” They continued to say that a majority of Denison students “fail to act as bona fide residents.” The letter asked the board of elections to not certify any ballots from Precinct C until the “legitimacy and legality of Denison student votes can there be determined.”

Denison Campus Republicans president Nathaniel Beach ‘20 expressed some sympathy for the perspective of the Granville residents. In an email he said “I feel as if the issue is more complex than students make known… Denison students voted for an increased tax they aren’t responsible for paying that landed on the shoulders of the people, which I feel is wrong.” “However,” he continued, “Denisonians as people, deserve their right to vote as anyone else. It should also be noted, that attempting to bar students from voting is illegal.”

The Licking County Board of Elections determined the votes were valid based upon the Secretary of State’s website ruling “an original or copy of a current utility bill with the voter’s name and present address” as a valid form of identification. 

Beyond the potential inconvenience of having to re-register to vote, the revised directive makes students living at the Homestead residents of Granville Township. Homesteaders will now vote within the Granville Township A precinct and their voting location will be the Bryn Du Fieldhouse located at 537 Jones Road. All other on-campus residents will vote at the First Presbyterian Church at 110 West Broadway in the upcoming election.

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