COLUMBUS, Ohio – Governor Mike DeWine unveiled a program to entice Ohio adults and children alike to get the COVID vaccine on Wednesday – the State of Ohio will give away $5MM and five college scholarships. Winners will be drawn weekly over five weeks from a pool of vaccinated Ohioans.
Gov. DeWine said:
Getting our 12- to 17-year-olds vaccinated is so important that we will have a separate incentive for them. Two weeks from tonight — on Wednesday, May 26th — we will announce the winner of a drawing of all those 17 years-old and under who have been vaccinated, and the winner will receive a full, four-year scholarship to our State of Ohio universities. This will include tuition, room-and-board, and books.
Next Tuesday, on May 18th, an electronic portal will be opened up for young people who have been vaccinated to be able to register.
We will do this every Wednesday, for five straight Wednesdays — each time randomly selecting one student to receive the full, four-year scholarship.
Now, let’s talk about the adults. Two weeks from tonight on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive 1 million dollars. The pool of names for the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” drawing will be derived from the Ohio Secretary of State’s publicly available voter registration database.
Further, we will make available a webpage for people to sign up for the drawings if they are not in a database we are using. The Ohio Department of Health will be the sponsoring agency for the drawings, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct them. The money will come from existing federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.
To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years of age or older on the day of the drawing. You must be an Ohio resident. And, you must be vaccinated before the drawing.
The pool of names for the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” drawing will be derived from the Ohio Secretary of State’s publicly available voter registration database.”
In response to an email asking about the legality of the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” program and scholarship giveaways, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost offered this statement:
Like many of you, I first learned about this idea yesterday. At first blush, the concept does not appear to violate state law, though that will be dependent upon how it is designed. We will continue to review as additional details are made public.
Just because a thing may be legally done does not mean it should be done. The wisdom and propriety of this expenditure is a question for the Governor and the General Assembly.
Ohio-Vax-a-Million was announced during DeWine’s television address to Ohioans during which he also pitched vaccines for 12-15-year-olds and announced that COVID restrictions (except for nursing homes) would end June 1.
Ohio constitutional rights lawyer Maurice Thompson said “it definitely violates Article 15 of the Ohio Constitution (on lotteries) but thanks to Republican efforts to defend JobsOhio at all costs, nobody maintains legal standing to sue.”
DeWine’s Press Secretary Dan Tierney was contacted for clarification on the legality of the giveaways and whether Ohioans are marked as “vaccinated” or “unvaccinated” in the voter registration database or elsewhere. Tierney has not yet responded.
Ohio State Senator Andrew Brenner (R-District 19) was asked in a phone interview what he thought of the incentives and he said, “I oppose the use of the relief funds for a lottery and scholarships. Those dollars would be better spent on patients and the overall system.”
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