VOICES: Residency and voting are connected, bear civic responsibilities

As an educator for nearly forty years, I’ve always tried to be fair.

That means being consistent in judgment and making sure all involved have the same opportunity to offer their thoughts. It often starts with sharing both sides of a particular issue or event – current or historic.

Sharing thoughts on who might benefit under a given scenario, and who might be negatively impacted.

In my classes, students also learn about civic duties – obeying the laws, paying taxes, and serving on a jury. They learn what it means to be a voter in that system, as well as and the importance of registering to vote, and being informed about what’s on the ballot. My teaching has been in high school, but here’s what I would tell college students, nearly all of whom are adults.

Voting comes with further responsibilities – legal obligations to the state and municipality where they reside and vote. That places importance on where a voter lives, and that impacts college students especially. Voters are required to affirm that they are residents of where they cast ballots. It’s illegal for someone to register and vote from two different addresses.

That even applies to college students who might consider themselves temporary residents, but who take on the full complement of resident responsibility when they register to vote where they go to school.

To legally register to vote in Ohio you must establish residency here no fewer than 30 days before an election. A college student may vote from their college address only if, according to the Ohio Secretary of State, the student doesn’t intend to return to a different permanent address.

Students may also vote from their home address by an absentee ballot, which I did while an undergraduate student at Ohio Northern University and a graduate student at Miami University.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, any new resident share surrender their driver license and get a new one for their new address. Also, if a person moves from another state, “within thirty days of becoming a resident of this state, any person who owns a motor vehicle operated or driven upon the public roads or highways shall register the vehicle in this state”.

Many, if not most, college students file to register to vote from their college address without realizing that such a decision likely triggers other considerations and responsibilities.

The Village of Granville (like many municipalities) for instance, has a mandatory tax registration, “in order to ensure equitable tax collection, all village residents are required to register with the income tax department within 30 days of residency whether subject to the tax or not.”

Granville Exempted Village School district (like a number of school districts) levies an additional income tax which applies to both earned income and capital gains. Interestingly as it relates to college students, it also applies to taxable scholarships and fellowships.

Years ago, while on Village Council, I sought a way to give senior citizens a reduction of taxes. However, the Village law director made it clear that a municipality can’t treat different groups of individuals differently. If seniors can’t be treated with special consideration because of their advanced years, neither can college students get an exception because of their younger age.

All of this means that college students who register to vote in their college town are required to follow the rules of that town and Ohio. All the rules. Those who do so ought to be commended for their diligence.

Those who don’t are breaking the law.

I applaud college students for wanting to do their civic duty. Every college student – every citizen – should register to vote on his or her 18th birthday and exercise the voting franchise.

Residency and voting are tied together, and bear civic responsibilities that attach to both.

Matt McGowan just completed 20 years’ service on Granville Village Council, including a term as Mayor.

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