On September 13th, Hilliard Tea Party member Carol D. Bicking submitted a voter challenge to hundreds of OSU students. Bicking appears to be following the strategy promoted by True the Vote which aims to intimidate Democratic voters, like students or African Americans, into staying away from the polls this November.
If the Board of Elections accepts the challenge, students would be sent a subpoena to appear at a hearing to question their voting status. Students would then have a minimum of three days to prepare for the hearing, and possibly hire legal counsel, all because some nasty Tea Partier didn’t like the way their address appeared on the voting registration form.
According to documents obtained by Plunderbund, the bulk of the challenges (246) are for students who registered to vote at their dorm buildings at OSU but failed to provide a specific room number on the application. We confirmed with OSU’s Housing Department that “as long as everything else is accurate including their name” the students will, most likely, still receive their mail even without the room number.
Can you imagine being a young college student and potentially a first time voter and receiving a subpoena in the mail telling you your voting status was being challenged? Pretty intimidating. Which is exactly Bicking’s purpose.
Bicking’s challenge is only one of many happening around the state. Fortunately for OSU’s students, Bicking doesn’t seem to have done her research very well (despite being a lawyer herself.)
We asked for some legal advice on the challenge and it doesn’t bode well for Bicking’s challenge:
The qualification of a voter is set forth in Revised Code 3503.01. The only qualifications for voters are:
2. Over 18 years of Age
3. Resident of Ohio for 30 days.
4. Resident of the county and precinct (note no 30 day requirement)
5. Registered to vote
The challenge against the students is that they have an “incomplete” mailing address in their registration. This is not a valid reason to challenge a voter. The relevant statute is R.C. § 3505.19. This statute says that a person may be challenged “as to the registered elector’s right to vote.” This means that the challenge must state a belief that the person does not meet one of the criteria listed above.
A challenge based on the lack of a complete mailing address is not permitted under the statute. A complete mailing address is not a qualification for the right to vote in Ohio.
This is consistent with the provision of the Revised Code that pertains to the change of an address within a precinct. Revised Code § 3503.16(B) states that if a registered voter moves within a precinct the person may vote by signing a “notice of change of residence” at the polling place and generally providing the same identification required to vote. This additional statutory provision is further evidence that Ohio law does not consider the fact that the Board of Elections has an improper mailing address for a person a reason for disqualification, so long as the person shows up in the right place at the right time.
Conclusion: the Board of elections should summarily reject this challenge.
Bicking’s challenge shows the sad state of Tea Party and Republican politics today. While Democrats are aggressively trying to register new voters and to motivate existing voters to get the polls, the other side has adopted a strategy of intimidation intended to reduce voter turn out and to scare people away from the polls.
Seems pretty un-American if you ask me. Especially for a group of people who claim to be “Patriots”.
UPDATE: Franklin County BOE voted to throw out all of Bicking’s challenges.