Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ohio Fair and Secure Elections Act Passes from Ohio House


COLUMBUS—At a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse, Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina), Speaker Pro Tempore Lou Blessing (R-Cincinnati), State Representative Bob Mecklenborg (R-Cincinnati) and members of House majority leadership commended the passage of the “Ohio Fair and Secure Elections Act” from the Ohio House, as well as resolved misconceptions that were circulated by the minority caucus. House Bill 159 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.
“The passage of House Bill 159 is a victory for the people of Ohio and for a fair democratic elections process,” said Batchelder. “At a time when voter fraud has corrupted the voice of the people, we took a significant step today in rectifying this important issue.”
Currently, 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.
“Ensuring that our elections process is fair, honorable and lawful is a hallmark of the democratic process,” said Blessing, who jointly sponsored House Bill 159 with Rep. Mecklenborg. “I’m pleased that this measure is one step closer toward improving elections in Ohio.”
The bill also directs the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to pass rules giving 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.
“It is important that as lawmakers, we work to maintain integrity at the polls and address the issue of voter fraud, which has become a significant problem in Ohio,” said Mecklenborg.
The House State Government and Elections Committee heard testimony from a variety of proponents, including secretaries of state from states that have already implemented similar legislation, and top officials from the Cuyahoga and Hamilton County Boards of Election. Currently, nine states require voter photo identification, while legislation is currently pending or being considered in 20 other states.  The “Ohio Fair and Secure Elections Act” borrows from Indiana and Georgia laws addressing voter identification, which have withstood constitutional scrutiny.
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.
House Bill 159 now moves to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.