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Ohio Fair and Secure Elections Act

From the Ohio House of Representatives Republican Caucus:

“House Bill 159 will require voters to confirm their identities by presenting photo identification when voting on Election Day or by absentee in person at the Board of Elections.

“The passage of House Bill 159 is a victory for the people of Ohio and for a fair democratic elections process,” said [Speaker William] Batchelder (R-Medina). “At a time when voter fraud has corrupted the voice of the people, we took a significant step today in rectifying this important issue.”

“Currently, when voting on Election Day, a voter may submit as proof of identification valid photo identification, a military identification, or a copy of a current utility bill, paycheck or other government document that shows the voter’s name and current address. The proposed legislation would require that all voters voting on Election Day or in person absentee to present photo identification in the form of an Ohio driver’s license, Ohio state ID card, a military identification, or a U.S. passport. Acceptable forms of identification remain unchanged for persons voting absentee by mail.”

This has been widely reported in Ohio the past few days, but many of the reports  have not given the whole story about this controversial bill.  Really, it’s not so controversial if you know the facts about it and read its actual text.  Lost in a lot of the reporting is the fact that those who do not have a valid photo ID and cannot afford one will be provided one at no cost.  Ohio HB 159 states:

An individual who cannot afford to pay the fees prescribed in division (A) of this section, including any lamination fee, may apply to the registrar or a deputy registrar for the issuance to that individual of an identification card or a temporary identification card under this section without payment of any fee.”

It further allows that a voter who shows up without the proper ID on election day can cast a provisional ballot and sort it all out later. In addition, absentee voters who mail in their ballots will not be required to provide a photo ID.

None of these reasonable concessions stopped House Democrats from sending out a press release loaded with the usual scare tactics.  House Democratic Leader Amond Budish made it sound like this bill would send us straight back to Jim Crow laws:

“This bill will negatively impact the elderly, college students, the poor and minorities. After years of reform and encouraging citizens to more actively participate in their democracy, this legislation will stop and reverse that progress. Are we returning to the embarrassing days when white male property owners were the only legal voters?”

Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) went as far as to imply that people might DIE if this bill is passed:

“Citizens of this state are being systematically erased from access, participation and in a few more steps – existence. We eliminate the ability to bargain for one’s pay and benefits; we slash education; we challenge health care reform; we eliminate compensatory time; we go after pensions; and now…we attempt to go back to steal the right of people to even be able to impact the very process that is robbing them of their ability to survive in this state.”

The press release also said there is “no real evidence” of voter fraud in Ohio.  AARP agreed, saying:

“HB 159 is presented as a means to curb voter fraud, yet such fraud has not been demonstrated; further, Ohio has ample procedures in place to detect voter fraud. HB 159 is overly restrictive, expensive, and not called for by the facts.”

You know, no evidence of voter fraud at all.  Except for thisthisthisthisthisthisthis, and this.  Opponents of this bill would have us continue to allow someone to vote with no more identification than a wadded up electric bill found in a dumpster.

Nearly every article and news story has reported that, “Democrats estimate that about 887,000 Ohioans do not have the identification required in the legislation.”  That number is attributed to  Advancement Project.  This group, whose board includes communist sympathizer Harry Belefonte (friend of Chavez and Castro), says in its mission statement that:

“From Advancement Project’s inception, we have worked ‘on-the-ground,’ helping organized communities of color dismantle and reform the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy.”

The group receives funding from the Tides Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and MoveOn.org.  A search of the Advancement Project’s website turned up no reports about state ID statistics for Ohio or any other state.   A Google search also turned up nothing (except for dozens of newspapers reporting this statistic from Advancement Project).  So where did this number come from?  Good question.   You can trust that number about as far as you can throw an 870,000 lb. football.

Just for fun, let’s think through this.  There are approximately 11.5 million Ohioans – 8 million of those (70%) are registered to vote (does that seem like a lot?). Using Advancement Project’s extremely large number of 870,000 Ohioans without ID would mean 8% of Ohio’s population does not have the proper ID. If we apply that 8% to registered voters, we have about 640,000 registered voters without ID.

Currently, the cost of a state ID in Ohio is $8.50.  If the state issued an ID card to every one of those 640,000 voters (as outlandish of a number as that likely is), the cost would be around $5,440,000.  However,  voter turnout was only around 49% in the last election, so it’s a good bet that many of those same people who didn’t bother to vote when they merely needed an old cable TV bill for ID will probably not make the effort to drag themselves away from “Dancing with the Stars” to go out and vote in the next election either.

Also consider that Ohio had around 831,000 who voted absentee – more than 10% of all votes cast were absentee.   Again, HB 159 does not require a photo ID to vote absentee.    We’re now down to what is likely a small number of actual voters who are truly in need of ID cards.  For those voters who want to vote and need an ID, we need to make sure the process of either voting absentee or obtaining an ID is streamlined and simple.   Assisting voters in obtaining legal state ID cards would be a perfect job for groups like the Advancement Project, ACORN, and other community organizers.  

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