Student Stories

University of Dayton Continues Efforts to Empower Out-of-State Student Voters

Photo Credit: University of Dayton

More than 70 percent of enrolled students at the University of Dayton live on its scenic 380-acre campus. The college neighborhood is a collection of state-of-the-art, porch-clad houses. The university prides itself on its award-winning facilities and dining options. Approximately half of the school’s population consists of out-of-state students, eager to explore the sixth largest city in the state of Ohio. They pay tuition, the state’s sales tax, and contribute an incredible amount to the city’s economy. But until recently, out-of-state students weren’t able to cast a vote.

Katherine Liming, a native and resident of northern Ohio, joined The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program during the 2016 election cycle. At the time, there was political pressure all across the country to get out of the vote, specifically among the youth and college students. Questions of voter engagement, voter education, and what possible barriers or impediments to voting existed on University of Dayton’s campus, quickly made Katherine realize a large portion of eligible students were alienated from hitting the polls. Liming could use her Ohio driver’s license to cast her vote but what would out-of-state students use to provide proof of residency?

“For four years, you secure housing through the University of Dayton. There are some students who receive contracts from landlords, but that isn’t typical. We don’t get the normal proof of residency documents at school, like a utility bill or a bank statement,” says Katherine. “The circumstances of students made it extremely necessary for us to find a policy solution. We wanted all student voices to be heard, especially for such an important election.”

After guidance from her Vote Everywhere Program Manager, Nicole Costa, and VE Campus Champions, Dr. Hunter Phillips Goodman and Dr. Grant Neeley, Katherine and her team were able to collaborate with the Department of Housing and Residence Life as well as a number of other student organizations on campus. According to Katherine, an essential ingredient of the process was having access to a well-respected administrator at the university, “Our Campus Champions helped us figure out who on campus to contact for what. Being able to CC them on emails added validity to our requests and kept us on the right track.”

Two weeks before election day, the Department of Housing and Residence Life at the University of Dayton emailed proof of residency documentation to all students on campus. The initiative was not only well-received, but it gave out–of–state students the opportunity to make an impact in the election in Ohio and the rest of the country.

Since the 2016 election, the administration has been working with the Vote Everywhere team to institutionalize proof of residency documentation. The school is undergoing a campus-wide software update that will ease access to the proper paperwork for University of Dayton students. The new program will be launched at an event planned for President’s Day, in preparation for the 2018 midterm elections.

In addition, the Vote Everywhere team continues to work with the Department of Housing and Residence Life to identify students who must update their addresses with the Board of Elections. It is imperative that there isn’t a discrepancy between the proof of residency document and the address on record.

Katherine is excited to witness the launch of the software update. The new initiative will positively impact over 4,000 students, nearly 49% of the university’s student body. “We do such a great job at community service and civic engagement at the University of Dayton. Working with administrators on making voting easier and more accessible to students has been such a worthwhile process. It sends the message that our voices are valued and appreciated on campus and in the state of Ohio.”

Costa believes student participation increases when it is woven into the campus culture. “Universities are vital to the development of our nation’s next generation of citizens,” she says.“By institutionalizing voter registration, schools say to students that registering to vote and going to the polls is as important as registering for courses and going to lectures. We’re thrilled to see the University of Dayton making student voices a priority on campus.”

About the Author

Kevin Hurtado is the Communications and Development Associate at Andrew Goodman Foundation. He graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor’s in International Studies and a minor in Human Rights and Genocide. Previously, Kevin worked as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Newark Charter School Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting educational equity in the city of Newark.