Central State and Wilberforce universities are Ohio’s sole Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Located in Greene County, the institutions share another distinction: they are home to entrenched obstacles that keep students from having their voices heard at the ballot box.
An analysis of voting data from 2018 reveals troubling trends in low turnout, provisional ballot rejection and registration problems. But these barriers are not insurmountable. All Voting is Local together with students and community partners, propose a robust and sustained investment in voter education and poll worker recruitment and training to solve these problems so all students can cast a ballot that counts.
Needs Improvement: Barriers to the Ballot at Ohio’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities seeks to expose and remove voting obstacles at Central State and Wilberforce Universities.
- Low turnout. While statewide voter turnout in Ohio exceeded 55 percent in 2018, the precinct serving Central State was a distant outlier with roughly 15 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.
- College voters cast a disproportionate number of provisional ballots. At Central State, 46.4 percent of all votes cast were by provisional ballot. In Greene County, the rate was only 1.89 percent.
- College voters’ provisional ballots were more likely to be rejected. Provisional voters at the precincts serving Central State and Wilberforce were at least twice as likely to have their ballots rejected than other provisional voters in Greene County.
- Registration problems. The most common reason for a provisional ballot: a voter was not registered or the registration was not current. While this is generally true for counties throughout Ohio, a disproportionate number of people cast provisional ballots at the precincts serving Central State and Wilberforce because of registration issues.
College students living on campus may not be aware they can register to vote where they go to school. They may be confused about the registration procedures, rules, and deadlines. The universities and county election officials must invest in voter education to tackle these problems.
- Streamline voter registration on campus
- Encourage students to serve as poll workers on Election Day
- Co-sponsor robust voter education program
- Ensure proper and complete training for poll workers on provisional ballots