Columbus — A group of Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House has launched an effort to force a floor vote on legislation requiring voters to show photo identification when casting ballots.
Rep. Matt Lynch (R-Geauga County) and three other lawmakers added their names to a discharge petition Sept. 2 during a press conference at the Statehouse to push House Bill 269 for consideration by the full chamber. The bill was introduced more than a year ago but has not yet had a hearing in the chamber’s Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee.
“What is the problem with having photo ID required for voting in Ohio?” Lynch asked. “Frankly, there should be no problem, because we can’t get on an airplane, we can barely get into a public building if we don’t have such an ID.”
Opponents of the move don’t believe Lynch and other supporters will succeed in the discharge petition effort.
“Given that this bill has been around for a while and there has been really zero action on it, I think they might be overestimating the interest in the discharge petition in the House, let alone what the Senate and the governor might think of this, should it come to them,” said Gary Daniels, from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
Under current law, residents must show a valid driver’s license or government-issued ID or an original copy of a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document that includes the voter’s name and current address to cast a regular ballot on Election Day.
Lynch and others want to require a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. HB 269 would generally require a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, military ID or U.S. passport in order to vote. The bill also calls for needy Ohioans to be issued free state identification cards.
Proponents say the change is needed to prevent ineligible Ohioans from casting ballots.
“It’s obvious that photo voter ID won’t solve every voter fraud problem,” Lynch said. “However, it will improve the system … We want to secure the vote for as many folks as possible, and the fact that some will still be able to vote fraudulently because we won’t be able to catch them is no reason to ignore the benefits of photo voter ID.”
Opponents say a photo ID requirement would hurt elderly, needy, disabled, homeless and other Ohioans, many of whom tend to side with Democratic candidates. They say the requirement would be expensive to administer and that there are few instances of actual election fraud each year.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), a frequent critic of GOP-led election law changes, called the voter ID bill “a transparent attempt to suppress the votes of poor voters, women voters, senior voters, student voters and minority voters.”
She added in a released statement, “Up to 20 percent of current Ohio voters do not have such an ID. Furthermore, the proposed voting restriction will cost taxpayers as much as $43 million over four years — all to solve a ‘problem’ that does not exist.”
The Ohio Christian Alliance announced in May that it would pursue a ballot issue if lawmaker didn’t act on the photo ID legislation. That group reiterated its intentions Sept. 2, with an eye toward the 2015 general election ballot if lawmakers don’t move the bill.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.