We had another Ohio Coalition's meeting. No Dayton participants, and not much going on this month. There was discussion about the four cities co-coordinating a Homeless Memorial Day on December 21, 2005. Each Coalition will have a candlelight vigil to remember those who died over the last year. There was some on going controversy in Columbus again about the power of the Community Shelter Board. The other two cities (Cleveland and Cincinnati) have new Mayors and they are preparing for positive changes.
While in Columbus, I testified before the Ohio Senate Rules Committee concerning the proposed changes in election law. NEOCH opposes these changes because many homeless people have issues with keeping identification. The new rule will force everyone to show ID, if they want to vote. The definition of ID includes a utility bill or government check, but for homeless people even these other options are also not available. We will post my testimony on the NEOCH website later this week.
The hearing started one hour and 15 minutes late, and then there was very little control over the length of the individual's testifying. Every other hearing that I have ever attended there was a 2 or 3 minute limit on testimony even at City Council. The only people testifying were those opposed to the legislation, but they let people talk for 7 or 12 minutes and read their entire testimony. No wonder very little gets done in Columbus if they just let people drone on and on. The League of Women Voters, Voting Coalitions from around the state, Ohio Newspaper Association, Common Cause, Ohio Citizen Action, NAACP, and COHHIO all testified against this bill. So who is supporting this bill? How do you pass a bill when only members of the legislature from one party support the bill?
The other offensive experience was the Ohio Newspaper Association testified only in opposition to the one piece that would allow a reduction in public notices for an election from 3 to 1 and increased use of websites. There are plenty of other items in this bill like the reduction in availability of the list of voters that newspapers should be angry about. But the newspaper guy only mentioned his opposition to those useless small print public notices, because they are a cash cow for printed newspapers. "Jettison the first amendment as long as we get our money from government," was the bottom line for the Newsapaper Association testimony.
The other thing that I realized sitting in that hearing room was that the Republican supporters of this legislation refused to talk about why they are forwarding this bill. Repeatedly, it came up from Teresa Fedor, State Senator of Toledo, that there is no evidence that there was any fraud in actual voting in the last election. The professor from CWRU testified as well that there was only one incident in all 88 counties of potential election fraud. There were plenty of examples of registration problems, but those were caught before election day and before "Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, or Mickey Mouse" did in fact vote.
Finally, the last thing I came to realize while sitting listening for three hours was that my 12 year old daughter could photoshop a very good electric bill with any address that I would want on it. If the goal is to assure that people are not voting two or three times because all they have to provide is a signature, then how hard would it be to photoshop electric bills with your fraudulant address? Right now we depend on the local registration process to screen out bogus social security numbers or license ID numbers, the voting process is just a verification that the registation is legitimate. If an individual can make it through the registration process with a bogus social security or driver's license number, they will certainly make it into the polls to vote with a bogus piece of ID. Nearly every nineteen year old college student can tell you how easy it is to buy a fake ID, but those are typically used to vote.
Anyway, bottom line this is a bad bill that has no reason to exist. There were so many problems with the 2004 election how about trying to fix all those issues? We don't need a bill that will bring more lawsuits and more problems?
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.