SGA speaks out on behalf of students, sends letter of opposition to state government

Kasich vetoes amendments that were getting national attention

By Sarah Stubbs, co-editor

Certain amendments in the state of Ohio’s House Bill 53 were gaining national attention in the last two weeks – especially college students’.

Controversy arose regarding amendments 4503.111 and 4507.213 of House Bill 53: amendments that would require out-of-state residents who register to vote in Ohio to register for an Ohio driver’s license within 30 days of being in state.

These amendments, according to UF’s Student Government Association’s President Preston Eberlyn, would infringe upon the voting rights of out-of-state college students.

A sigh of relief ensued from out-of-state college students and voting rights activists when Gov. Kasich vetoed these amendments on April 1.

While House Bill 53 was moving successfully through the Senate and the House, student government associations and political associations at Ohio colleges and universities drafted and sent in letters to the state government to express their opposition to the voter-oppressive amendments.

When Clay Parlette, SGA senator and sophomore marketing major at UF, saw Ohio State’s efforts to reach out to the local government he immediately decided that UF’s SGA needed to step up and reach out, too.

“It was all happening so quick,” said Eberlyn.

Eberlyn says that Parlette had been sick and at home so he was emailing him on Wednesday, March 18 about the amendments and how Ohio State’s SGA was doing something about it.

“He just said he thought [UF’s] SGA should do something about it and I completely agreed,” said Eberlyn.

Parlette says that the amendments initially got his attention on social media. He learned on Twitter and Facebook that Ohio State was showing bi-partisan opposition – as were other colleges and universities.

“Any time you have people from both sides of the aisle deciding to come together to take a stand on something, you know it is deserving of attention and concern,” said Parlette.

Support was bi-partisan from most Ohio colleges and universities, but that wasn’t the case in congress – or at UF.

According to Eberlyn, the main proponents of these amendments – mostly Republicans – were saying that they would help keep better records of who’s driving in Ohio.

“The flip side is in essence, it’s voter suppression because it’s just another fee that students would have to pay in order to vote in Ohio,” said Eberlyn.

Parlette and Eberlyn agreed that action needed to be taken.  They drafted a letter immediately, they said. After sending out information about the amendments to all members of UF’s SGA, the letter was signed by all and was sent to Ohio senators and representatives.

Unlike OSU and other universities, UF’s College Republicans and College Democrats did not join in making a statement. SGA was the only UF organization to send a letter.

When reached for comment, Rebeckah Berdard, president of College Republicans at UF, said she could not comment on the issue for this story.

Eberlyn says that the proposed amendments not only affected voting, but also affected driving, which are two big concerns for out-of-state students since many Findlay students go home or travel on the weekends.

Parlette agrees. He says these concerns are exactly why SGA’s efforts were and are so important.

“Given a large number of students hail from states other than Ohio, I felt that, since the proposed law would negatively affect so many on our campus, it would be appropriate that our own SGA express these concerns to UF’s representatives in the legislature,” said Parlette.

Dave Emsweller, vice president of student affairs, says that this isn’t the first time SGA has reached out to the state government.

“SGA has helped present the student voice to Representatives on other occasions. A few years ago when the state of Ohio was proposing cuts to certain financial aid programs, SGA joined with other groups to ask that aid not be reduced. That involvement did help to somewhat mitigate the reductions,” said Emsweller.

Emsweller says that in this most recent case, he believes that “the letters SGA sent regarding House Bill 53 were very appropriate” and that student governments have a responsibility to not only encourage students to vote, but also to protect those voting rights.

According to Eberlyn, one of SGA’s purposes is to get students engaged in voting and wanting to vote. He says one of his main goals under his presidency this year was in fact to get more students registered to vote.

“In the fall when we had our voter registration event, where we had over 40 students register to vote and over 100 get absentee ballots, it was hard enough to get students there – when we were having an event around it – that anything else that would hinder that would be even harder to get students to vote,” said Eberlyn.

Once news broke about Gov. Kasich’s decision to veto the amendments, Eberlyn said that he is proud of SGA for their willingness and hopes that in the future, if presented with an issue that affects students’ voting rights, SGA should stand and speak to those issues.

Parlette feels the same way Eberlyn does about SGA’s involvement and sees it as a responsibility to his peers.

 “As representatives of UF students, we have a critical obligation to look out for the interests of all students on this campus,” said Parlette.

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