Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Voter ID Headed to Ohio

Limiting Access to Voting 2011

After seeing all the opposition to the end of collective bargaining for public employees that was met with deaf ears, it is probably a waste of time contacting your state legislator at this point. So, this is just for information purposes. The State of Ohio is proposing another reform of voting procedures in Ohio. Remember that this was tried in 2005 and a number of organizations including NEOCH sued to protect access to the ballot by homeless people, seniors, immigrants, college students, and people interested in the smooth operation of government. So the state does not have the best track record for reforming voting laws in Ohio. This time they are going to require state identification in order to vote (Ohio HB 159). Most of the state legislators in Cuyahoga County oppose this voting identification law, because they realize that this will suppress voting.

The legislation will allow "indigent" individuals a free state ID, but they are not considering the basis of all ID is the birth certificate. The birth certificate can cost anywhere from $5 to $60 depending on the state an individual was born. So, paying for the state identification does not guarantee access to a government identification card. There is a vague definition in the potential law describing how a person establishes themselves as indigent. It is unclear how to prove the negative of not having any money. The other issue is that for many homeless people it is difficult to establish residency in the state. Ohio will only give identification to individuals who can prove residency within the state. Some homeless people who live in shelters or on the streets are turned away from receiving identification because they can’t prove they are a resident.

Advocates claim that one fourth of African Americans, 18% of those over 65 years old, and 15% of low income individuals do not have government issued identification. According to the US Census there are 830,000 people living in Ohio who fall below the poverty level. Many of those very low income individuals will have a difficult time voting because they may not have a government issued identification. Over the last major election in Ohio in 2010, there was only one documented case of voter fraud, and there were 3.9 million votes cast. The state is proposing paying for the state identification, but not the birth certificate or guaranteeing access to homeless people who may have a difficult time proving residency.

This is another horrible reform of the election law that will do nothing to protect the ballot. The only thing that this does is to discourage fragile populations from attempting to vote on election day in person. It also destroys the settlement that we had with the state last year over identification procedures for voting in person.

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