Death of photo ID bill victory for democracy

2With that comment, Rep. Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, deep-sixed one of the most controversial and unnecessary pieces of legislation in this session of the General Assembly. That the voter photo-identification bill was even given serious consideration for a while by the Republican majority in House and Senate speaks to the way the GOP, led by Gov. John Kasich, is pushing through an agenda that is partisan in nature and is standing government on its head. The Democratic minority has been marginalized.

But even a strong majority can overreach, and when it does, the people stand up and say, “Enough.” That’s what happened with the photo-ID bill. It is significant that one of the top Republican officeholders in Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted, made it clear that the measure being pushed by members of his party in the Statehouse was not only unnecessary, it was unfair.

Husted had some interesting company in opposing the photo-ID bill. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the American Association of Retired Persons, American Civil Liberties Union, Project Vote and the Coalition of Homelessness and Housing in Ohio all came out strongly against the plan to require Ohioans to present a government-issued photo ID before they could cast a ballot.

Likewise, we strongly voiced out opposition to what we considered a heavy-handed attempt at voter suppression. Proponents deny that was their intention, arguing they merely wanted to stop voter fraud. But as we noted time and again, there isn’t one study that reveals widespread fraud at the polls.

What disturbed us more than anything else about the legislation — the Senate attempted to soften the blow by letting voters without government-issued IDs to vote a provisional ballot — is that almost 900,000 Ohioans may lack the government ID, Ohio driver’s license, an Ohio state ID, military ID or U.S. passport.

The people most affected would be the poor, minorities and senior citizens.

Although the photo-ID legislation passed the House, cooler heads prevailed in the Senate, where it stalled at the committee level. The measure never made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Not necessary

Speaker Batchelder says he still supports more stringent identification requirements to avoid the kinds of perceptions of election fraud that were created during the last presidential election. But Secretary of State Husted, Ohio’s chief elections officer, contends that a reform bill passed by the Legislature in June and signed into law gives his office everything it needs to ensure fair and honest elections.

A comment Husted made during the voter photo-ID debate is worth repeating, because it delivers a message that the Republican-dominated House and Senate would do well to heed:

“I stand for what I believe in. You go out, and you campaign, and you talk about being fair. If you want to have any credibility, you’ve got to do what you say you would do. I said I’d be fair and even-handed.”

Republican legislators may argue that they never promised to be fair and even-handed, but the people of Ohio certainly don’t want political extremism — from Republicans or Democrats.

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