To the editors:

We are writing in response to those members of our community who are seeking to disenfranchise Denison students in a last-ditch attempt to overturn the recent Granville Schools levy vote (see “Granville group questions whether Denison Students voting legally in Licking County,” November 23, 2018). In doing so, they have elevated petty politics above fundamental democratic values, community values, and common sense.

Lisa Englefield, Paul Jenks, Paul Rice, Victoria Sugar-Kessler, and William Wilken have written to the Licking County Board of Elections challenging the legality of enrolled students using a copy of a utility bill from Denison as a form of identification, even though the Ohio Revised Code explicitly states that registered voters can provide proof of identity in the form of a copy of a current utility bill showing the voter’s full name and current address.

The challenge rests on the nonsensical technicality that a utility bill provided by Denison should not be covered by the statute because Denison is “not a utility.” (In addition to generating some of its own electricity and steam heat, Denison pays substantial utility bills to AEP and other providers on behalf of the students who live on campus.) The challenge further erroneously asserts that the law does not apply to a private college, even though the memorandum issued by the Ohio Secretary of State to the Boards of Election in 2007 (Directive 2007-06, issued April 4, 2007) and further reaffirmed in 2008 (Directive 2008-80 and Advisory 2008-26) makes it clear that it applies to all “colleges and universities in Ohio” regardless of ownership.

Regardless of the fact that the challenge seems wobbly, it is disheartening that Englefield, Jenks et al. are attempting to disenfranchise those who may have voted in a way they do not like. We have news for you: that is not how democracy works.

Denison’s mission is “to inspire and educate students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and active citizens of a democratic society.” As faculty members, we take that charge seriously. We offer courses that cover the history of democracy and how electoral processes work. We urge students of all political views to inform themselves about the candidates and the issues on the ballot. We encourage them to exercise their right to vote.

Both the United States Constitution and Ohio election law give college students the right to vote either by casting an absentee ballot in their home state or by registering to vote in the state in which they are living while attending college. The Ohio Revised Code states that a residence is that place “in which the person’s habitation is fixed and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention of returning.”

This definition has long been interpreted to include college residence halls. In 1972 (Dunn v. Blumstein), the US Supreme Court ruled that durational residency requirements violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1986, in a case brought by SUNY Purchase students against the Westchester Board of Elections (Williams v. Salerno), the courts upheld the right of students to vote in their college community on the grounds that a campus dormitory meets the residency requirement. 

Denison students live, work, shop, volunteer, earn income, pay taxes, attend religious services, and plan and attend events in our community. They contribute over 50,000 hours per year volunteering in the local schools, shelters, food pantries, and day care centers; they serve as volunteer firefighters and EMTs. They babysit, pet sit, and staff our after-school programs. They work in and support our local restaurants and businesses. Students pay taxes on the income they earn from jobs both on and off campus, which totals over $2.3 million per year. Denison University is the fifth largest employer in Licking County and a major donor to local civic organizations. A thriving college means a thriving community. Our property values and the income on which we pay our taxes depend upon it.

U.S. law gives us the right to vote on issues (including those that may not directly affect us) in the place we live. We urge you to affirm our fundamental democratic values and to support our students and the educational mission of our community.


Margot Singer, Granville

Jack Shuler, Granville

Cheryl McFarren, Granville

Ted Burczak, Granville

Mónica Ayala-Martínez, Granville

Heather Rhodes, Granville

Jessen Havill, Granville

Barbara Fultner, Granville

Sylvia Brown, Granville

Michael Croley, Granville

Gary L Baker, Granville

Suzanne Baker, Granville

Sandy Runzo, Granville

Mary Tuominen, Granville

David Bussan, Graville

Anthony Lisska, Granville

Emily Nemeth, Granville

Peter Grandbois, Granville

Charles St-Georges, Columbus

Lisa McDonnell, Granville

Bill Kirkpatrick, Granville

Amanda M Gunn, Granville

Cynthia Turnbull, Granville

K. Christine Pae, Granville

Hanada Al-Masri, Granville

Sky LaRell Anderson, New Albany

Jonathan Maskit, Granville

Jessica Rettig, Granville

Dave Woodyard, Granville

Geoff Smith, Granville

Rebecca Homan, Granville

Laura Romano, Granville

Melissa Huerta, Westerville

Tom D. Schultz, Granville

Laura Russell, Heath

Jeffrey B. Kurtz, Newark, Granville Schools

Seth Chin-Parker, Granville

Rachel Mitton-Fry, Granville

Matt Kretchmar, Granville

Ching-chu Hu, Newark, Granville Schools

Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Granville

Megan Threlkeld, Granville

Frank Proctor, Granville

Annabel Edwards, Gahanna

Eleni Papaleonardos, Granville

Lance Ingwersen, Columbus

Jordan Katz, Granville

Ann Townsend, Granville

Susan Kennedy, Newark, Granville Schools

Michael Fuson, Granville

Abram Kaplan, Granville Township

Karen Graves, Newark

Sohrab Behdad, Granville Township

Peter Kuhlman, Newark

Mark Evans Bryan, Granville

Andrew McCall, Granville

Dan Homan, Granville

Veerendra Lele, Granville

Andrea Ziegert, Granville

David Baker, Granville