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A Voter Photo ID A Cure Infinitely Worse Than The Disease

On March 23rd the new Republican Majority pushed a Photo – Voter ID requirement though the Ohio House. Bipartisan good sense prevailed in the Senate and the bill apparently has died. That’s a relief but, seriously, what was that about? First of all, is voter fraud a problem in our state or in the country? Not even close. In 2002, the Bush administration decided to crack down on voter fraud. After 5 years they had convicted 26 individual voters, most of whom had been confused about voter eligibility rules. Investigations into the 2004 Ohio elections found a fraud rate of 0.00004%. That’s 1 bad vote out of every two and a half million cast. That’s less than the odds of dying after being struck by lightning…. or eating badly prepared blowfish in Japan… or... You get the idea: voter fraud is very, very rare. Second, photo ID’s would do very little to prevent the negligible fraud there is. They would do nothing to prevent absentee voter fraud or ballot box stuffing, for example. Photo ID’s would help against people who show up at the polls impersonating others, but former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner says she never saw or heard of a single case of voter impersonation in four years. Third, a photo ID requirement would disenfranchise a lot of eligible voters. More than 20 million American citizens do not have a government-issued photo identification like a drivers’s license or passport. That number doesn’t even include recently married or divorced women who have photo IDs in their previous names, rather than their current names. Considering that 9 in 10 married women in the US change their names, it’s a good bet that a lot of women would have to go through a lot of hassle to exercise their right to vote. Finally, the relevant court cases make it clear that the state of Ohio would have to jump thru some significant and costly hoops to implement a voter ID law. The state would have to guarantee that free ID’s were available for anyone who needed one. Ohio would probably need to increase the number and hours of offices that issue ID’s to make sure voters could get them easily. And we’d need to launch a serious public education campaign just to make sure everyone understood the new procedures. And of course there’re be lawsuits. And rightly so. All this to implement a quote-unquote cure that would be infinitely worse than the disease it’s supposed designed to treat. Even with the record turnout of 2008, 2 in 5 eligible voters stayed home. How about making Election Day a national holiday, or holding it on the weekend, or creating an Election Week rather than just one day? Wouldn’t it be great to see our state and national elected officials considering legislation that would boost turnout rather than suppress it?