Jon Husted is all a-Twitter (TM) about today being Democracy Day, a day to celebrate the ratification of the 26th Amendment which lowered the voting age to 18 that is held by Rock the Vote and the National Education Association (NEA… you know, one of those free loading teachers unions).

Ironic given that Husted has publicly been very quiet about is House Bill 159, a bill that requires the use of a government issued photo identification card which lists your address or a recent address any time you vote.  Currently, a person could vote so long as they could produce a utility bill or a paycheck mailed to the address in which you are registered to vote.  HB 159  would eliminate those as eligible forms of identification.

Which is rather odd since these alternative forms of identification was devised by the legislature when it initially started to require photo identification at the polls to give people the ability to vote who don’t have a drivers license and no other reason to have a State issued identification card.  Prepare for a history lesson on how we got to a Paper Please, then you can vote law.

In wake of the Bush v. Gore case, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 and was signed by President Bush.  In that bill, it required newly registered voters to produce a photo identification during the first time they vote only.  So then State Representative Kevin DeWine (the current chairman of the Ohio Republican Party) introduced HB 3, which initially only required photo identification for first time voters only in state and federal elections.  The bill also allowed for a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck in lieu of a photo i.d.  Other voters didn’t need to present a photo i.d.

It passed out of the House Committee and the House untouched.  It wasn’t until the bill got to the State Senate that it decided to mandate all voters must present identification at every vote, but the Republicans specifically allowed the alternative means of identification for those who couldn’t afford, or otherwise needed, a government photo identification.  The bill was signed into law by Republican Bob Taft and hailed by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.  It was enacted in time to go in force in 2006.  And who was the Speaker of the House at the time?  That’s right Secretary of State Jon Husted.

From 2006 through 2010, we’ve had no problems with Ohio’s identification laws.  There hasn’t been one case of someone in Ohio fraudulently voting which could have been prevented by requiring a strict government photo identification instead.  Not one case.  Republicans passed this bill, saying it ended the prospect of voter fraud, and there’s no evidence, NONE, that it has failed in any way.

And yet, the House Republicans are hell-bent to pass HB 159, a bill that would make Ohio’s the most narrowest identification requirements in the nation.  The bill was introduced only eight days ago.  Amazingly, it went instantly to committee hearings. 

Here’s some details from the House Democratic Caucus’ press release on the bill today:

With only two hearings, limited testimony and no real evidence of voter fraud, HB 159 raises serious questions about why it is on a fast track for approval.

“Once again Republicans are trying to suppress the poor and minority vote by requiring photo identification, which would place an undue burden on those who cannot afford to pay these costs,” said Rep. Williams.  “It’s nothing more than a modern day poll tax.”

“This bill disenfranchises the right to vote of our citizens and disproportionately harms working-class and minority communities,” said Rep. Ramos. “In my district alone, this will negatively affect thousands of working people struggling to get by, impoverished people who have fallen upon hard times, students, and the elderly.  All of which are without vehicles and without need for a drivers license, or ability to get to the BMV.  Getting to the BMV IS in itself an expense.  It is a poll tax.  Polling places, by their nature are in our neighborhoods, deputy registrars are not.  And, since they serve people who drive, keeping the BMV on a bus route is not a priority, especially with our increasingly bus routes.”

The House State Government and Elections Committee heard proponent testimony from Indiana and Georgia, the only other states with photo ID requirements. Ohio’s law would be even more restrictive than those states. Numerous opponents also testified in committee yesterday including: AARP, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union and Project Vote.  Democratic committee members questioned the need for the change amid the fact that no real evidence of voter fraud could be displayed.  Democratic committee members also requested that Secretary of State Husted, Ohio’s chief elections officer, testify on the bill.  According to media reports he “has not taken a position on the bill.” (Columbus Dispatch 3/23/11)

“Citizens of this state are being systematically erased from access, participation and in a few more steps – existence,” said Rep. Heard.  “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.”

Also joining the press conference were the NAACP, Advancement Project, and an OSU college student. It was held in the George Washington Williams room in the Ohio Statehouse which honors Ohio’s first African-American legislator who was a published historian and fought for civil justice.

HB 159 by the numbers:

  • 887,000 voting-age Ohioans likely do not have Government-issued photo ID
  • 25% of African Americans nationwide do not have government-issued photo ID
  • 18% of voters over age 65 nationwide do not have government-issued photo ID
  • 15% of voters with income lower than $35,000/year don’t have government- issued photo ID
  • $23 Price of a driver’s license
  • $21.50 Price of a birth certificate
  • $8.50 Price of a state ID
  • $10 million Cost to Indiana provide free ID’s to voters
  • 0 evidence of voter impersonation fraud

If this bill prevents fraud, it’s fraud that the current Ohio Republican Party Chairman and the Secretary of State is complicit in.  If not, this bill is just a giant voter suppression scam.

The Committee heard from witnesses from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office over Skype.  Amazing, Jon Husted and no representative from his office appeared or testified.  What was Ohio’s Secretary of State doing at the time insteadimage He was just outside of the Statehouse speaking at a rally of pro-voucher, pro-charter school protestors… which are subjects that have nothing to do with his job but is a vitally important Republican constituency.

Yesterday, was the only public hearing on the bill.  And Jon Husted didn’t even appear.  Not even by Skype.  Or Twitter.

Amazingly (or not), the House GOP responded to the Democrats criticism today by holding a press conference in which the majority cited a Rasmussen Reports poll to support their proposition that HB 159 is popular despite the fact only two other States (Indiana and Georgia) have enacted anything similar:

An August 2010 Rasmussen Reports survey found that 82 percent of voters approve of voter photo identification requirements. In Ohio, former Democrat Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner ordered an investigation into possible voter fraud when 92 Lawrence County absentee ballots were sent to one of two post box numbers.

First, HB 159 doesn’t prevent the kind of things like what occurred in Lawrence County.  That’s voter registration fraud, not voter fraud.  Second, Ohio’s existing law prevented multiple votes.  Oh, and HB 159 doesn’t change the law for identification requirements for absentee ballots!

image

So the one example they’ve cited is a circumstance that HB 159 doesn’t change the law at all!

Now here’s the problem with Rasmussen.  One, it’s Rasmussen, a conservative pollster who has been known to produce polls with a conservative bias that shows public opinion to be vastly different than most, if not all, other pollsters do.  He uses a questionable methodology.  Second, the poll was of likely voters in 2010, which was a decidedly conservative, pro-GOP electorate.  Third, the fact that people asked showed support for photo identification does not mean that’s the only form of identification voters support.  We don’t know if that number changes if the category of acceptable identification is expanded to include that which is acceptable under Ohio law now.  Therefore, to take this poll to suggest that 82% of Americans support changing Ohio’s law to require government photo I.D.s only is an extrapolation that is an intellectually dishonest one given the limited nature of the data and the absence of a control question that test the support for the current law.  After all, Ohio mostly requires I.D. cards anyways, so how much of that 82% doesn’t support Ohio’s current laws?  We can’t say.

And finally, and most importantly, who gives a fuck what likely voters think about who gets to vote?  There was a time that a majority of voters thought you should have to own land to be able to vote to protect the integrity of the democratic process.  They lost.  Then, we needed to protect the process by keeping to men, specifically white men.  In the South, voters thought we needed to protect the system with poll taxes, literacy and citizenship tests.

We thought it was insane to let 18 year-olds to vote.  On the day, we celebrate the 24th Amendment.  Let’s remember that likely voters have one thing in common: their political power is always threatened by the inclusion and increased involvement of what would otherwise be the unlikely voter.

So we have in Ohio a law that is already more restrictive than what was required by the GOP Congress and President Bush, more restrictive than the current GOP State Chairman and Republican Secretary of State called for, and replace it with the only empirical evidence offered to justify such a move being an anecdote that the bill wouldn’t impact and a poll that doesn’t really test support for the bill.  And a Republican Secretary of State that is AWOL on the job.

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