September 19, 2014

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Oberlin College prints phone bills for voter ID

OBERLIN — Oberlin College and the Lorain County Board of Elections teamed up to find a solution to strict voter identification laws — creating phone bills for students.

Alan Moran, vice president of college relations, said the zero-balance bills will be placed in the mailboxes of students in their dormitories over the weekend.

The bills issued by the Office of the Controller contain the name and address of students, as well as a statement that they have been provided telephone and wireless connections “through your Oberlin College account at no additional cost.”

At the bottom in bold type the bills state, “PLEASE SAVE: THIS STATEMENT CAN SERVE AS PROOF OF YOUR IDENTITY IF YOU HAVE REGISTERED TO VOTE AND WANT TO VOTE AT THE POLLS.”

Moran said the documents were approved as a form of identification by the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Moran credited Jose Candelario, director of the Lorain County Elections Board, to being open to the idea of the bills as a way to solve the thorny problem of identification.

In some past recent elections, students who only had driver’s licenses from their home states had to vote provisionally and it took days to finalize results, Moran said.

Candelario also helped arrange for a one-day voter registration drive that led to 600 new voters, he said.

Politics student Colin Koffel said the bills could save students from a lot of headache in Tuesday’s primary and the November general election.

“It’s absurd how much we have to do in order to vote,” said Koffel, of Madison, Wis.

He was a freshman in November 2004 when elections officials here and at other Ohio colleges came under attack for massive waits at polls.

“It was kind of a tragic and beautiful experience — we had to stand in line for up to eight hours,” said Koffel, who is involved in a non-partisan coalition of students stressing the right to vote.

The beautiful part was the resolve of the students, who refused to leave, as well as those who lent support, he said.

Students from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music serenaded the weary voters in line and others brought them snacks.

The tragedy was that it occurred at all, Koffel said.

Politics professor and then-Oberlin City Councilwoman Eve Sandberg testified before Congress about the problems, he said.

The level of excitement on campus is great, according to Koffel, who saw a troubling decline in students’ participation after the voter ID law took effect in 2006.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.