Ohio's stalled voter ID law- vote on Tuesday

In March the Ohio House passed HB 159, which introduced reasonable reforms to secure Ohio’s election process, one of which was to require a photo ID in order to vote in person. Parts of the bill were passed into law in June. However,  the GOP-controlled senate and Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, balked at the photo ID requirement and it’s been held up in the senate ever since.  It is finally scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, 9/27 as Sub. HB 159.

After the Republicans took over the House, the Senate, every statewide office and the Governor’s office in 2010 and enacted bold reforms, the Senate Republicans have had the wind knocked out of their sails by the Democrats’ ballot measure aimed at repealing Gov. Kasich’s union reforms and their threat to do the same with election reforms and the new redistricting map.  They don’t seem to have the stomach for another fight and, ignoring those who swept them into office, it’s likely they’ll take a pass on the photo-ID requirement. Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) has said he expects the photo-ID provision to be removed from the bill.

Currently, Ohio law allows a voter to cast a ballot if they are in possession of anything from a driver’s licence to a cable TV bill. There is no way for the poll worker to prove that the person in possession of the cable TV bill is actually the registered voter.  Sec. of State Husted can’t imagine a scenario where someone would try to game this system:

“I believe that if you have a government-issued check, a utility bill in your name with your address on it, that no one made that up. They didn’t call AEP and establish utilities in their name to commit voter fraud.”

To his credit, Husted has backed reforms in early and absentee voting, which will curb some of the abuses we saw in 2008. But his stubborn refusal to support the common-sense photo ID bill is baffling.  Here’s what the new law would require:

When an elector appears in a polling place to vote, the elector shall announce to the precinct election officials the elector’s full name and current address and provide proof of the elector’s identity in the form of a photo identification or a non-photo state identification.

(2) If an elector does not have or is unable to provide to the precinct election officials any of the forms of identification required under division (A)(1) of this section, the elector may cast a provisional ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code and do either of the following:

(a) Appear at the office of the board of elections not later than the close of the polls on the day of the election and provide the identification required under division (A)(1) of this section; or

(b) Write the elector’s social security number, driver’s license number, or state identification card number on the provisional ballot envelope, which number shall be verified by the board of elections with the bureau of motor vehicles.

It’s not complicated. If a registered voter shows up without photo ID, he will still be permitted to cast a provisional ballot if he writes his social security number, driver’s license number, or state ID number on the provisional ballot.

Note that no photo ID is required to vote absentee and anyone can vote absentee in Ohio for any reason.
I have spent the past two Monday evenings at my county Board of Elections, training to be a poll worker and a Presiding Judge for the upcoming election. Doing so has giving me an insider’s view of the Ohio voting process. These people run a very tight ship. There is redundancy built into nearly every step of the election process to assure there is no cheating or fraud.  Here are a few examples:
  • There is a locked metal transfer case that contains supplies to be used in each precinct on election day. The Presiding Judge is instructed to break the lock on the case in the presence of other poll workers and check off the supplies on the “chain of custody sheet.”
  • When setting up the voting machines (which have two locks and only one key for each lock) a Democrat and a Republican must be present and participate in the set-up.
  • If there is a problem with a voting machine a Democrat and a Republican poll worker will assist in resolving problems with the machines.
  • There is a plastic lock on the voting machines that must be cut in the presence of a Democrat and Republican poll worker.
  • If a ballot needs to be canceled on the electronic voting machine both a Democrat and a Republican poll worker must cancel the ballot together.
  • When a voter arrives to cast a ballot, their name must be checked against the list of registered voters in the precinct. If their name does not appear on the list they must cast a provisional ballot and provide proof to the Board of Elections that they are eligible to vote.
  • When returning the supplies (including the memory cards from the voting machines) to the Board of Elections on election night, a member of the opposite party must ride with the Presiding Judge to the Board of Elections.
As you can see, there are layers and layers of security, oversight, and redundancy in place to assure voters that Ohio’s elections are fair and secure.

Except when it comes to voter identification. Showing a utility bill does not prove that the person attempting to vote is who they say they are. It just proves that they are in possession of the bill or bank statement. That is not proof of identity. It’s not difficult to imagine dozens of ways people could fraudulently vote in Ohio as the law currently stands.  Say your grandmother doesn’t feel like heading out in the bad weather on election day. Another family member could just take a utility bill and vote for grandma. It would be quite easy for family members to trade places.

More troubling would be someone with access to large quantities of utility bills who decided to cross-reference those with voter registration rolls.  Has it ever happened? We have no way of knowing. Detractors of this bill say that there is no evidence that there is a problem with voter fraud in Ohio (well, except for thisthisthisthisthisthisthis, and this).

But lack of evidence of only evidence that there is a lack of evidence. We do know that there is a gaping hole in the security and credibility our our voting process in Ohio.  We have no way to know who is voting unless legislators pass a photo ID requirement.

Republicans should not fall prey to the hysterical protestations of the Democrats crying foul and threatening another tiresome referendum. Nearly everyone who votes in Ohio already has a photo ID. The leftist Advancement Project estimates that 887,000 Ohioans don’t have the ID’s, but the number of registered voters without ID’s who actually show up on election day is likely far lower (see my blog post on this issue).

And for those who actually don’t have a photo ID and who do actually vote, the legislation says that the state will provide a free photo ID for anyone who does not have one.

I’d like to point out that the requirements to apply for food stamps in Ohio are far more burdensome. The applicant must show up at the local County Jobs and Family Services office and provide:
  • Proof of citizenship, or an alien registration card
  • Proof of all income
  • Social Security Card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Proof of housing (rent/mortgage) costs
  • Proof of utility costs
  • Proof of medical costs if aged 60 or older, or if disabled
  • Proof of disability (if applicable)
  • Proof of child support (if applicable)

If you are in Ohio, call Senate President Tom Niehaus and your state senators on Tuesday and tell them we need a photo ID requirement to assure our elections are secure and credible. Please share this on your social networks and remind them who elected them and who will support them in their next election. The Democrats collecting signatures and draining their war chests sure aren’t going to vote for them.