Just yesterday, we noted the speed with which GOP legislators are introducing new bills to regulate elections and voting in Ohio. Apparently we posted too soon.
Today, the Ohio General Assembly has yet another voting bill on its agenda. House Bill 269, sponsored by Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township), imposes strict new requirements for photo identification in order to vote in Ohio.
The legislation is nearly identical to a bill introduced in 2011 and passed by the Ohio House. That bill was opposed by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, AARP and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.
Voters unable to present one of the four legal forms of ID – an Ohio driver’s license or state identification card, a military identification card or a U.S. passport – would be forced to vote provisionally, votes which will never count unless a voter provides the Board of Elections within ten days one of the prescribed forms of identification.
Voters would no longer be able to prove residence with a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document.
It is estimated that nearly 940,000 Ohio voters would lack the necessary identification required to vote if HB269 were to become law. Especially hard-hit would be African Americans, seniors and low-income Ohioans. Another group likely to see their ability to vote curtained are college students, including those who do not drive or relocated to Ohio and are eligible to vote but whose official identification was issued by another state.
Currently, six states have strict photo identification laws on the books and four others have passed laws that have not yet taken effect. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have had the photo identification laws blocked by legal challenges.
Proponents of the legislation argue that it is necessary to address voter fraud. But in the 2012 general election, 135 of over 5.6 million ballots cast in Ohio — just over two one-thousandths of a percent — were determined to be possibly fraudulent. Even Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State reported that voter fraud “is not an epidemic” and that photo ID “wouldn’t have mattered” in the majority of the instances that occur.
In a 2012 report, Policy Matters Ohio estimated that the cost to implement a mandatory photo identification requirement in Ohio could be as high as $27 million.
The fact is, just like the attempt to disenfranchise college students in the state budget, this is another effort by the party in the majority to decrease turnout among voters most likely to vote for their opponents.