by Maya Lowenstein
This past Monday, the United States Supreme Court ruled five to four along party lines in favor of delaying the start of early voting in Ohio. “Golden Week,” a week where early voting and registration can occur simultaneously, was originally set to begin in Ohio on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
Citizens still have until October 6 to register, but now early voting will not start until next week, meaning that Kenyon students will no longer be able to vote before October Break.
Certain groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, claim that the Court’s decision disproportionately harms minorities and low-income citizens who have less leisure time to vote, while others defend the decision as a way to limit voter fraud and cut down on the costs of running elections.
“[The Supreme Court decision] ultimately amounts to a 30 percent reduction of early voting in Ohio,” Sam Whipple ’16, president of Kenyon Democrats, said. “[Ohio Gov. John] Kasich [says he] wants to make the process more fair and ‘level the playing field.’ How does this level the playing field?”
Of late, Whipple can often be spotted behind a table in Peirce Hall’s atrium where he calls out to passing students and asks them if they’re registered to vote. Though the voter registration table is run by volunteers from Kenyon Democrats, students of all political views are encouraged to register, according to Whipple.
For those who have yet to register, the process is fairly simple: voters are required to fill out basic information including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their Gambier P.O. boxes. Since students’ residences change each year, they are required to re-register every September.
So far, Whipple estimates that 150 to 200 Kenyon students have registered through Kenyon to vote this coming fall, which is about 10 percent of the student body. Comparatively, 40 percent of Kenyon students were registered during the 2012 presidential election. These numbers are not higher, according to Whipple, in part because Kenyon has “a bit of an apathy problem.”
Kenyon College Republicans President Andrew Gabel ’15 said that voter registration is “not a huge priority” for his organization, since, according to Gabel, the Kenyon Republicans are already confident in the voting power of Knox County’s Republican majority, and do not feel the need to rustle up more votes.
Whipple acknowledged that Kenyon’s largely liberal student body is often referred to as an “island of blue in a sea of red.”
“We’re not trying to change minds; we’re not going out and having arguments with steadfast Republicans,” Whipple said. “At this point, it’s really just about finding the Democrats out here who feel like their vote won’t matter or they shouldn’t be voting in a community that would consider them different because they vote Democrat.”
Kenyon students have asserted in the past, in the Collegian and in all-student emails, that students from outside Ohio should register to vote in their home states. These individuals have argued that out-of-state students do not have enough stake in the local Knox County community to justify voting on its issues. Whipple disagrees.
“The truth is, when you’re here for nine months of the year, when you have professors who live in this county, who take up residency here and send their kids to school, they want to have lives here,” he said. “The argument I make is that registering to vote and voting in itself is a way of paying it forward. You might not be here for more than four years, but Kenyon will [be].
“These elections are going to make a big difference,” Whipple said. “A lot of the policies that Kasich has put in place, such as cuts to education and local government, have made it really hard for people in Knox County to get by.”
Tess Dugan-Knight ’18 , who has dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S., decided to register to vote in Ohio. Dugan-Knight said she feels it is important to make your vote count “especially as a young person”. She believes young people should care about the issues that are pertinent to them such as developments in education and social services.
Positions up for election in early November include Ohio’s governor and secretary of state, as well as state auditor and state representative for Knox County.
On Election Day (Nov. 4), voting begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. Transportation to voting sites will be provided for students if necessary. Additionally, the Office of Housing & Residential Life will email each registered student a copy of his or her utility bill, which is required to prove residency in Ohio.