Husted not advocating photo ID


COLUMBUS

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has a whole package of reforms he’d like to see implemented before next year’s presidential election.

He wants to allow online voter registration. He wants to improve the statewide voter database. He wants to revamp provisional and absentee voting. And he wants to eliminate Golden Week, when Ohioans could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day.

The changes, Husted and other proponents say, will reduce the potential for voter fraud and ensure Ohioans who want to participate in elections have the chance to do so.

The secretary of State announced the package more than a month ago. Last week, House Republicans introduced legislation to accomplish Husted’s goals, with the Senate poised to follow suit.

“Ensuring that our election laws are as comprehensive and methodical as possible is one of the most important tasks of the General Assembly,” Speaker Pro Tem Lou Blessing, a Republican from Cincinnati who is co-sponsoring the bill, said in a released statement. “In addition to reducing any wasteful spending and providing stability to election laws, we also want to ensure that every Ohioan has a voice and that those voices are not diluted by any other factors.”

Husted released a statement praising the introduction and the coming legislative work on the bill.

GOP majorities

So there you go, right? Given the GOP majorities in the House and Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich holding the pen on enactment, one would logically suppose that Husted’s proposals would receive quick and positive legislative attention.

But is that a fly in the ointment?

Because Husted is not exactly rah-rahing a controversial Republican-backed bill that would require Ohioans to show government-issued photo identification cards when casting ballots.

HB 159 passed the House last month by a vote of 56-38 a little more than a week after being introduced and over the objections of Democrats, who said it would disproportionately hurt black voters and senior citizens and amounted to a modern day poll tax.

Proponents say the bill will prevent election fraud, simplify voting requirements and increase community confidence in election results.

But opponents say the bill would affect more than 800,000 residents who do not hold government-issued IDs. And Democrats say few cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted in the state in recent memory.

And the state’s chief elections officer?

He isn’t saying much about the bill either way. Though at least one newspaper reported his opposition to the bill last week, Husted is firm only in his comments that his reform package offers a more complete approach to dealing with election issues.

“There are other ways to achieve these same goals that do not create the anxiety [but will] solve the problem [of potential voter fraud].” Husted said.

He added, “If photo ID happens or doesn’t happen, we’re going to run a good, quality election in the state that provides voters with easy access to vote and a secure environment where voter fraud won’t occur,” he said.

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. E-mail him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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