The outside of hale hall with the hall sign

Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will hold a virtual event Oct. 6 to educate students on voter disenfranchisement and systems. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Assistant Photo Editor

Just a month out from Election Day, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion wants to inform Ohio State students on the voting system through its Dialogue and Discussion Series on Diversity. 

The virtual event, “Your VOTE and our Collective VOICE: The Continued Battle for Full Enfranchisement,” will be held Oct. 6 and focuses on different aspects of voter disenfranchisement, including voter suppression, barriers to voting for some groups, and gerrymandering. Louise Yahiaoui, education abroad specialist in the Office of International Affairs and member of the ODI planning committee, said being fully enfranchised means a citizen feels a part of the democratic process and like their vote holds value in the election.

“For people who have never voted before, this is going to be a good introduction as to what the voting system looks like and how it works,” Yahiaoui said. “For those people who may be a bit further along, we’re going to talk about voter suppression and voter fraud and how one exists and how the other one doesn’t.”

Voter disenfranchisement particularly impacts marginalized groups. According to a 2020 study by Poor People’s Campaign, for example, nearly 54 percent of the 63 million low-income people eligible to vote in the U.S. in 2016 did not. The study also found that low-income people vote about 22 percentage points lower than higher-income voters, with 24 percent of low-income voters citing lack of interest or faith in the value of their vote, 17 percent citing disability or illness and 5 percent citing transportation problems as reasons for not voting.

Laws that require government or photo IDs to vote also prevent already marginalized groups from voting. Of the 11 percent of total citizens nationally who do not have ID, 25 percent are Black compared to 8 percent white, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Trevor Brown, dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, and Travis Simmons, who works in the Absentee Department for the Franklin County Board of Elections, will explain not only how the voting system is structured nationally but also what it looks like locally. This is the ninth year that ODI will host the Dialogue and Discussion Series on Diversity, and this year they are taking a varying-thematic approach. 

“The series is thematic, and we’re gonna touch on different areas based on current trends, current affairs, news, but most importantly this idea that this is a movement and not a moment,” Yahiaoui said. “That what has been happening in the last six months will not only define 2020, we’re hoping it will define the next century in terms of progress towards an equitable population.”

Robert Decatur, director of the Morrill Scholarship Program and chairperson of the ODI planning committee, said the six-part series is meant to bring students, faculty and staff together to discuss diversity and other related topics.

“We want to make sure that people understand what their rights are and that they will not fall prey to voter suppression,” Decatur said

The Dialogue and Discussion Series on Diversity is a chance for students to be introduced to resources on campus and is an opportunity to hear from experts with the same or opposing views, according to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

“Your VOTE and our Collective VOICE: The Continued Battle for Full Enfranchisement,” will take place Oct. 6 from 3-4 p.m. via Zoom. Students can register for the event and request accessibility accommodations on the ODI website.