COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Andrew Pierce was born and raised in Columbus — and at age 21, he has only cast a ballot in elections from his hometown so far.
“My mom is very keen on making sure that we vote, so my first memories are actually going with her to vote,” Pierce said.
But he has had to register to vote a few times. The Ohio State University undergraduate student government president has cast a ballot from where he lived with his parents in Clintonville, as well as, more recently, from where he lives in the nearby University District.
Pierce said that he sees a number of hurdles for college students who are trying to vote, whether that be addresses frequently changing or a faraway board of elections. OSU Votes, a nonpartisan student engagement organization at Ohio State, seeks to assist students in overcoming some of them.
“There are some hurdles,” staff adviser Madison Yee said. “We have a whole lot of students who get overwhelmed with knowing exactly what to do.”
College students in Ohio — hailing from both inside and outside of the state — can choose to register to vote from either their permanent address or campus address, as long as they meet certain residency requirements, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s website.
- Anyone who wants to vote in Ohio has to have lived in the state for at least 30 days before Election Day
- Once someone registers to vote at an address in Ohio, “other previous residences for voting purposes” are invalidated. You can only register and vote from one address
- Thirty days after registering to vote, registered voters then become eligible to vote in precinct-level elections
Ohioans can register to vote online, by mail, or at their county board of elections.
Although out-of-state students are generally allowed to register and vote from their dorm room or off-campus apartment address, those who want to might have to pencil in a trip to the board of elections in their school’s county. Ohio doesn’t allow anyone without a state driver’s license or identification card number to register online.
Yee said that at Ohio State, OSU Votes has a number of drop boxes placed in the campus community to collect Franklin County voter registrations that the organization can then bring en masse to the board of elections — which is more than seven miles from campus.
According to the voting rights organization the Fair Elections Center, regardless of where a student decides to register, it won’t affect:
- Federal financial aid grants or loans
- Whether parents declare their student as a dependent when filing taxes
- Tuition status as in-state or out-of-state student
The deadline to register to vote in the general election in Ohio is Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Once registered, voters in Ohio can exercise their right in three ways:
- In-person, early
- Absentee, by mail
- In-person, on Election Day
Early voting in Ohio kicks off the day after registration closes, and runs through the day before Election Day — which is on Tuesday, Nov. 8 this year.
Students who want to vote in person could take advantage of the window of in-person early voting at their county board of elections. The schedule for this election cycle includes some weekend days toward the end of October and the start of November. But Yee cautioned that to vote early, students have to go to the county board of elections — polling locations are used only on Election Day.
Pierce said he prefers to vote in-person early since he has access to a car. But he also recommends students consider voting by mail, no matter what address they are voting from.
To vote by mail in Ohio, request an absentee ballot through the secretary of state’s request form and return it to the county board of elections you are registered in. You’ll receive your ballot via mail and can fill it out from home. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 7 if returning it by mail, or by the time polls close on Election Day if dropping it off in person.
When casting a ballot in person, Yee said that it’s vital students have a valid form of identification. While an Ohio Driver’s License works, even with an older address, a BuckID — or any other student ID — won’t.
Out-of-state students planning to vote in Ohio should bring some form of identification that proves residency at their current address, such as an enrollment document with their dorm address or a utility bill in their name sent to their off-campus apartment. Some universities, including Ohio University and Otterbein College, also send emails providing proof of residency to students living in dorms closer to Election Day, according to university spokespeople.
The address is key, Yee said, but she added that students who don’t bring a proper form of ID can still cast a provisional ballot.