Debate Over Voter Photo ID Heats Up Again

Nov 14, 2013

The Ohio House is again considering legislation requiring people to present a government issued photo i-d before voting.

Lawmakers who support and oppose the measure are trying to rally their supporters. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Republican State Representative John Becker says voter fraud is a problem in Ohio.

Becker “You know the issue is there has been some documented issue of fraud going on.  There’s a perception that voter i.d. would go a long way to eliminating some of the current fraud that we know of and what might be more concerning is the fraud that we don’t know of, you know what’s slipping through the cracks.”

Becker’s photo i.d. bill, which was introduced earlier this year, would require Ohio voters to show a valid driver’s license or state issue identification card before casting a ballot.  He says his bill makes sure low income Ohioans who do not have those types of identification could get them free of charge.

Becker “It does provide for a free photo i.d. for anybody who can’t afford it AND they are at or below the federal poverty level”
Becker’s plan has the support of Chris Long, the president of the Ohio Christian Alliance.  And Long says recent polling shows it has the support of most Ohioans too.

Long “Some 70% of Ohioans support an idea of photo i.d. requirement for the polls to cast a ballot.  There’s been some recent polling too that indicate those numbers are holding so we feel that it’s time to bring photo i.d. to Ohio.

Curtin “Your right to vote is a fundamental right and infringements on that right are not subject to popularity polls”

That’s Democratic State Representative Mike Curtin.  He and his fellow Democratic colleague, Representative Kathleen Clyde, oppose the photo i.d. plan.  Clyde says polls often show high support because voters don’t understand the ramifications of photo i.d.  But she says, once voters learn how it will affect the poor, students, minorities and women, they don’t like it.  She points to the recent voter rejection of photo i.d. law in Minnesota as an example.  Clyde and Curtin say two groups of citizens are often most affected by photo i.d. laws.

Clyde: Unfortunately, the greater number of women living in poverty will be impacted by these decisions.

Curtin “Ask any nursing home administrator what percentage of that nursing home have a driver’s license or an equivalent photo i.d.  In the last two years of my Dad’s life when he was in an assisted living facility, he was not able to drive, had no need for a photo i.d.  Those are the type of people you disenfranchise with this legislation.

Clyde and Curtin say there isn’t a problem with voter fraud in Ohio and add photo i.d. is an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.  But Clyde and Curtin estimate photo i.d. would burden Ohio taxpayers with a cost of about 7 million dollars a year.

Clyde “I think there are a lot of issues we are interested in addressing, real problems, real solutions in a bipartisan way but this is not one of them. 

Curtin “If we are going to spend money, millions and millions of dollars to improve the system, we should improve the system, we should be investing in technology to make sure that we have the best newest technology in all 88 counties so that the boards of elections could do their work in the most efficient fashion.

The debate over photo identification is just the tip of the iceberg of proposed voting changes lawmakers could consider in the coming year.  And it’s possible voters could be asked to weigh in as Democrats are coming up with a proposed constitutional amendment that they say would guarantee some basic voter protections.