Legislation Solution Searching for a Problem Voting Edition

From Kathleen Clyde of Kent Ohio:

I am writing to alert you to an elections bill moving thru the House. It's HB 41 and it would change the ID requirement for in-person early voting so that Election Day ID would be required instead of just the last four digits of your SSN (SSN4). The Ohio Association of Elections Officials does not support the bill. I urge you to discuss this with your organization and consider testifying as an opponent to the bill. Below is some basic info on HB 41.

Republicans have been attacking early voting since its beginning in 2008. The proposed ID change in HB 41 was part of the 2011 GOP HB 194, which you recall was vigorously opposed by Ohioans and sent to referendum. Then Republicans backed down and repealed HB 194 themselves.

Under current law and practice, early in-person voters provide their ID number on a written application. It's simple. Voters don't have to bring anything or sort thru the many variations of the Election Day ID law. Under HB 41, in-person early voters would be required to bring and show Election Day ID, which many early voters do not have or cannot easily access.

The purported reason for the bill is to reduce paperwork and to "streamline" the process. The paperwork in question is mainly the ballot envelope that in-person early voters still use in optical scan counties. I agree with getting rid of that unnecessary step for in-person early voters. Let them scan their ballot right then and there. But the key here is that you don’t have to change the ID requirement to reduce paperwork. 

An amendment has been drafted to add SSN4 back to the bill as allowable ID. There is some procedural confusion around that at this time but the last committee hearing on the bill was on the “As Introduced” unamended version of the bill. And the next hearing will also be on the unamended version, this Wednesday on 4/26, with a possible vote taking place. Even if the amendment is included, it would not eliminate the problem with the bill. Republicans would still have an opening to change voter instructions and create confusion. Making easy ID the exception rather than the default that it is today will make voting harder.

This was the basis of our lawsuit and agreement that we struck with the state back in 2012 to prevent homeless people and low income individuals from being disenfranchised.  ID and birth certificates are not cheap and can take a long time to obtain.  We wanted to at least be able to vote with a provisional ballot if they do not have identification.  This is a horrible piece of legislation that addresses a problem that does not exist.  Here is the press release from Representative Clyde from last month when this was introduced.  Representative Clyde testified in our case in Columbus last year regarding the counting of provisional ballots.

Brian Davis

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