A Response to the Controversy Surrounding Student Involvement in Ohio
By Dylan Markovic
Please indulge me over the next few paragraphs as I lay out an argument that will make me popular with very few people and will convince almost no one to change their minds: I do not believe you should vote in my state. Before I begin, let me clarify: this argument is directed primarily at Kenyon students who leave their home states to come to Ohio and attend college, and while there, feel entitled to vote as an Ohio citizen.
Most everyday of the year, I wake up in the state of Ohio. Parts of my family have lived here for over 100 years. I took my first steps in Ohio, and when I was a year old, I put my face through my birthday cake in Ohio. My brother attends the same Ohio public schools that I graduated from. This state is where my roots lie, which is not to say that I am more qualified than other Ohioans to vote because I was born and raised here, only that I think I have legitimate standing in the case that has been brewing in the Kenyon Collegian (more specifically, in the article by Janie Simonton ’15), all-student emails, and other forums lately with regard to voting in this state.
I will not mince words: if you do not live in Ohio, I do not feel that you have the right to vote here. Furthermore, I am not sure it is even responsible for you to do so. Many will object that as students who inhabit the state for six or seven months per year, they do live in Ohio, and that is well and good. I wonder, though, even if you reside here most of the year, do you really live in Ohio? When you meet someone new, where do you say you come from? Are you from Boston? New York? Los Angeles? Or, faithful citizen of Ohio that you are, do you say “I am from Gambier”? The parents that likely pay some or all of your tuition, clothe you, and feed you: do they live in Ohio? It seems to me that anyone who still claims status as a dependent for tax purposes would have a difficult time justifying the claim that they are a citizen of a different state than their parents.
You may argue Kenyon students pay taxes, both through their paychecks and on their purchases, and this is not without merit. But should the right to vote be predicated solely on the payment of taxes? If that is the case, here is a proposition for you: bring me a stamped envelope addressed to your state treasurer’s office, and I will send them a check so that I can vote where you live, just like you can vote where I live. In my vast experience working minimum wage jobs in Ohio, I can personally attest that the state takes very little of my paycheck anyway, and that many of the taxes you pay as a student employee are federal taxes (with the exception of federal work-study participants).
Ohio is a fundamentally different place than where many Kenyon students come from, and, at the risk of inciting class-warfare, I have to say that many, but certainly not all, Kenyon students come from backgrounds which make it difficult to sympathize, not empathize, with the blue-collar character of Ohio. That does not preclude someone from having good intentions, but it surely makes it difficult for him or her to understand the state and its people. I live in the Midwest, the heartland, the breadbasket, which, with all due respect, is not anywhere near either of the coasts. As much as we as Americans should have a spirit of unity and togetherness, the fact remains that the 50 states are often worlds apart. Even intrastate differences can often be stark: Gambier is much different than Cleveland, than Akron, than Orrville.
I resent that many non-native Ohioans feel that they have the right to choose the state representatives, representatives, judges, executives, governors, and other officials that govern my state, my family, my neighbors, and my friends, when they are not subject to their governance in the same respects. A student who votes for an Ohio senator this year will be long gone from Kenyon before his or her term is complete, unless they decide to settle here. Frankly, I do not think you understand what it means to live here, but why should you? What does the closing of the Hoover plant in North Canton mean to you? What is your opinion of the way Ohio funds its public education system? How did you feel when Lerner moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 (an issue which was very political for the city of Cleveland, rest assured)?
Esteemed liberal professors, staff, and students who take to the various debate forums: please do not assert an out-of-state voter’s right to vote in Ohio on principle, as though you are seeking to advance some sort of bi-partisan, get-out-the-vote effort. Even as a friend of most liberal causes, it seems to me very disingenuous for you to encourage students to vote, as though the same could be expected if the student body were differently inclined.
Now that I have surely offended most of you, let me impart a secret: while I do not think it is the right thing to do, I am glad you vote in my state. Everyone knows Ohio is a crucial state in the presidential election, and of course I support the Mount Vernon levy, just two issues which face Ohioans at the polls this November. This is a very consequential view of things, however, and I am not entirely sure that the means of voting as a non-Ohio citizen are justified by the ends of getting the policies and candidates I want.
Whereas so many others seem to want to suppress your vote this election season, I feel the opposite way: I exhort you to vote. I only hope that you to do it in a meaningful way. “Home is where the heart is,” the saying goes. For me, home has always been Ohio. Where is yours?