Photo ID a Bad Idea

For Immediate Release Contact: Joanna Helon
Date: July 7, 2011 League of Women Voters of Ohio
Columbus, Ohio Phone: 614-469-1505

Photo ID a Bad Idea
LWV Ohio Calls on the Ohio Senate to Reject Photo ID Requirement

We have just celebrated the birth of our nation and its promise of government that would represent all citizens. Nancy G. Brown, Co-President of The League of Women Voters of Ohio, commented that “It is ironic that at this time the General Assembly is contemplating passage of HB 159 - a bill that seeks to limit participation in the electoral process.”

In 2006, the legislature passed HB 3, which for the first time required every voter to show some kind of ID to vote. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin DeWine, now the Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, at a time when the current Secretary of State was Speaker of the House. There was no evidence then that voter fraud was a problem and certainly no evidence today that the current system of identification, which was introduced by HB 3, is not working adequately. Indeed the proponents of the proposed photo ID law have been unable to cite even a single instance of voter impersonation – the only type of voter fraud this bill could possibly address.

So one might ask why the majority party is repudiating the voter ID bill which they passed five years ago and seeking to pass a far more onerous voter ID bill, which will make a driver’s license, state ID, passport or military ID a prerequisite for voting, and will cost the state of Ohio millions of dollars to furnish identification for the many Ohioans who currently lack such identification.

In 2008, in spite of the additional ID requirements in HB 3, record numbers of previously underrepresented groups turned out to vote. It is these voters: minorities, the elderly, the disabled, students and the poor who are most likely to be disenfranchised by the new requirements. Many such citizens don’t have a driver’s license, passport or military ID and must somehow get transportation to a motor vehicle office to get the requisite identification.

It is, of course, true, that these groups do have Social Security numbers, which theoretically they could use to vote a provisional ballot. In reality, this does not address the problem. For one thing, before the vote is counted, the Social Security number is to be verified with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles – except that the BMV’s are not likely to have Social Security numbers for persons who do not have a driver’s license or state ID. Even if they did, many Ohioans are unwilling to share their Social Security numbers. Indeed, House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said that with identify-theft issues, "We have a very serious problem with using Social Security numbers."

It is not surprising that many have wondered whether the goal of this more restrictive voter ID legislation is voter suppression – and, in particular, the suppression of votes that may threaten the majority party. We acknowledge that one can only speculate as to what is in the mind of a given legislator in supporting this legislation. However, Brown stated, ”It is not speculation to state that the result of this ill-conceived measure will be to discourage voting and cost the state millions of dollars to address a problem that does not exist.”

We urge Ohio legislators to join the League in working to ensure that all registered voters in Ohio have the opportunity to cast their vote without burdensome and costly requirements that serve no valid purpose. This requires a vote against HB 159.


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