Online Voter Registration Raises Concerns Of Disabled, ADA Expert
This year, about 106,000 Ohioans changed their voter registration information online. Marion Parker was not one of them. The Oberlin resident is blind and doesnât have a driverâs license, one of the requirements for using the new online system. âIf anybody needs to be able to change their voter registration, itâs people who a.) donât leave their house because they canât, or people who b.) just canât go to the board of elections office in their local area to change their voterâs address.â? State law lets people register or change their registration in person or by mail use their driverâs license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. The Web site requires both. Parker couldn't understand why the database accepted driverâs license numbers but not state ID numbers.
It ticked me off pretty bad. I was like âwhat do you mean driverâs licenses only?
Matt McClellan is a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of Stateâs office. âWe wanted to air on the side of making sure this system was secure, as well as accessible," McClellan says.
Thatâs why we require the four pieces of information: the last name, the driverâs license number, the last four of their Social Security, as well as the date of birth.
Voter databases have a history of being compromised. Two years ago a team from the University of Michigan hacked into a new online voting system in Washington, D.C. to prove it was vulnerable. The new Ohio system may offer additional security, but itâs probably illegal, says Ruth Colker, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in disability law. Colker says the Americans with Disabilities Act bars governments from offering fewer or lesser services for the disabled. âSo the question here would be âwhy did they pick a way to vote that disparately excludes people with visual impairment? Did they have a really strong reason for having to do it in this way?'â? In her legal opinion?
The easy answer is, well, they could have said to them âgive us either your driverâs license number or the number on your state-issued ID.â
"They allowed them to use that state-issued ID to register to vote, to do all sorts of other things when they engage in in-person voting and identifying themselves. Why is it in this instance that alternative form of identification would not have been available to the state to meet their security interests?â? So we went back to Matt McClellan with the Secretary of Stateâs Office. Reporter: âWhy will a state ID not work, but a driver's license will?" McClellen: âWell, under the law, when a person registers to vote, a driverâs license is one of the requirements. We have that in the system.â? A driverâs license is not a requirement for anyone registering in person or by mail, just an option. Still, Marion Parker says for the sake of proving his identity, a state-issued picture ID should be just as good as a license.
The people who put it out, the people who I had to go to get this ID say thereâs no difference except for that driving privilege. And I have to tend to believe them more than the people who are building a new Web site.
And, Parker says, when a person switches a state ID to a driverâs license or vice versa, the number on their ID stays the same. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles confirms that is the practice.