Thursday, June 16, 2005

Photo ID to Vote?

While the mainstream media is busy with MJ's acquittal and the blogosphere is focused on BWC investments, our General Assembly is devising fun new ways to stay in power. One is Senate Bill 36 which will require all new voters to show a valid ID.

I have a couple problems with this. The first is the dishonest rhetoric bandied about to support it. The legislators I have heard on radio supporting the measure (if I see any in print I will post them) raise the old bugaboo about fictitious voters registering during last year's registration drives. Honestly, if a legislator truly worries about Dick Tracy or Mickey Mouse getting past the poll workers on election day, he/she needs a hobby.

That is not the real reason behind SB 36. The real reason is that traditionally democratic voters -- primarily poor and minorities -- are disproportionately affected by rules like this. First, because poor and minority voters are less likely to have a photo ID. Second, because they are less likely to be able to go back and get their ID and return to the polling place should they forget it or be unaware of the requirement.

The sponsors of SB 36 are riding a trend. States in which Republicans dominate the legislature have been passing ID for voting laws all year.

A few particular notes. First, SB 36 currently is not as bad as some as it only requires new registrants to flash the ID. This could, of course, change in later iterations of the bill.

Second, it has an odd exception for people who registered by mail -- those folks can show up with a utility bill or other proof that they live at the address on the registration. I am at a loss to figure out how this forstalls premeditated cheating. If people were registering fake voters in an attempt to commit voter fraud (as opposed to hose-the-people-who-hired-you fraud), why not send in a bunch of fake registrations by mail and forge a bunch of utility bills. Is our GA completely unaware of the existence of color laser printers? On the other hand, I also can't see a clear partisan advantage here, so perhaps the intentions on this small point are benign.

Finally, keep an eye out for an amendment excepting those without ID based "religious beliefs." Then you will know the Ohio Republicans are really looking out, because that will be about the Amish.

To reset briefly, the Rs went after the Amish in a big way in '04. Amish have traditionally been leary of registering to vote because they object -- on religious grounds -- to being called for jury duty. By shocking and inexplicable coincidence, the lame duck General Assembly -- that, mind you, took the entire summer off to forestall coverage of the Householder scandals before the election -- granted the Amish a blanket exemption for jury duty. The Amish. Ohio exempts no one from reporting for jury duty. But now we exempt the Amish.

So, since the Amish also object to photo IDs, odds are someone in Columbus will connect the dots and drop in an exemption.

Bottom line, absent a finding that there exists a real possiblity of voter fraud, we have no business putting new hurdles in front of people trying to exercise their right to vote. The photo ID requirement is a 21st century literacy test.