Today’s Columbus Dispatch suggests that there are efforts to revive the strict photo ID bill in Ohio in a special legislation session next week. Some Republican leaders are trying to push fellow Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has beenopposed to the photo ID legislation, and members of the Ohio Senate to accept the bill. Their rationale is that Rhode Island, which has a Democratic legislature and an independent Governor, passed legislation that implements new voter ID requirements at the polls.
… Let’s be clear: the newly enacted Rhode Island law is different from the Ohio proposal in many important ways.
First, Rhode Island’s law does not go into effect until 2014. During the 2012 elections, voters will be able to use a broad range of identification at the polls, including non-photo documents such as Social Security cards, debit and credit cards, Medicare cards, or birth certificates. Ohio’s legislation would go into effect for the 2012 elections and would only allow a narrow list government-issued photo IDs at the polls.
Second, once the photo ID requirement is fully implemented in Rhode Island in 2014, the list of acceptable photo IDs is broader than Ohio’s current proposal. Rhode Island will accept all college, Rhode Island and federally issued IDs with a photo, whereas the Ohio bill does not include college IDs.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Rhode Island law has a critical fail-safe for those voters without ID. Any voter without the proper identification can cast a provisional ballot. If their signature on the provisional ballot matches the signature on their voter registration, as determined by the local board of elections, the provisional ballot will count. This fail-safe is similar to the approach several other states take, allowing voters without proper identification to sign an affidavit, under the penalty of perjury, that they are who they say they are and cast a regular ballot.
Finally, the fact that Democrats voted for this bill in Rhode Island doesn’t magically make Ohio’s – or any other state’s – push to limit access to the polls okay. It doesn’t matter if the politicians supporting this are Republicans or Democrats. If they are making it harder for young people and other citizens to vote, then they are on the wrong side of this issue. That is what drives the work we’ve been doing. As Rock the Vote President Heather Smith said yesterday, “In a democracy, where the right to vote should absolutely be protected, we should be working to make it easier, not harder, to cast a ballot.”