Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elections Integrity Bill Passes House Committee, Awaits Floor Vote


COLUMBUS—Following testimony from local elected officials and leaders of other states, the House State Government and Elections Committee passed the “Ohio Fair and Secure Elections Act,” which will require voters to confirm their identities by presenting photo identification when voting on Election Day or by absentee in-person at the Board of Elections.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Indiana Deputy Secretary of State & Chief Legal Counsel Jerry Bonnet discussed with the committee members the successful implementation of similar measures that passed in their respective states. The committee also heard testimony from Rob Frost, who is a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, and Amy Searcy, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections who was appointed to the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
State Representative Bob Mecklenborg (R-Cincinnati)—who jointly sponsored House Bill 159 with State Representative Lou Blessing (R-Cincinnati)—expressed his appreciation for the insights that the witnesses provided to the committee regarding the bill. “As chairman of the State Government and Elections Committee, it was very helpful to hear from members of local boards of elections, as well as other secretaries of states who have found great success in passing similar legislation,” he said. “The goal here is to safeguard the integrity of our elections process and take steps to prevent voter fraud in Ohio.  This bill will help restore confidence in our electoral process.  No one wants their vote diluted by improper voting.”
Under current law, when voting on Election Day, a voter may submit as proof of identification valid photo identification, a military identification, or a copy of a current utility bill, paycheck or other government document that shows the voter’s name and current address.  The proposed legislation would require that all voters voting on Election Day or in-person absentee to present photo identification in the form of an Ohio driver’s license, Ohio state ID card, a military identification, or a U.S. passport.  Acceptable forms of identification remain unchanged for persons voting absentee by mail.
The bill directs the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to pass rules providing IDs to persons who cannot afford them at no charge, and allows a person with religious objection to being photographed to vote provisionally and sign an affidavit of religious objection.
“House Bill 159 is a vital effort to encourage Ohioans’ trust and participation in the democratic process,” Blessing said. “Evidence has shown that requiring photo identification on Election Day has little to no impact on an individual’s likelihood of voting, which gives me confidence that we can safely and effectively improve Ohio’s voting laws without hindering the process itself.”
House Bill 159 passed from committee by a vote of 13-8. It now awaits a vote by the full House.