A sweeping overhaul of Ohio’s election laws passed the Senate on a party-line vote yesterday, and a bill requiring Ohio voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot is now on track to move next week. After a day filled with heated rhetoric and shifting plans, majority Republicans pushed through House Bill 194, which moves the 2012 presidential primary from March to May.
The bill, which the House is likely to send to Gov. John Kasich next week after approving Senate changes, would let Ohioans register to vote or change their addresses online and reduce early voting from 35 days before an election to 21 days by mail and 17 in person – which eliminates the so-called “golden week” when people could register and vote on the same day.
The bill also prohibits Franklin County and others from continuing to mail unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to all registered voters. County elections officials oppose the move, saying the practice cuts down on lines at the polls, but supporters say it’s unfair that many counties cannot afford such mailings.
… As on Wednesday, multiple witnesses, including those representing the poor, tore into the bill yesterday as an unnecessary suppression of certain voters. Most Republicans continued to defend the bill as necessary to ensure the integrity of the balloting process and improve public confidence.
Critics argued that there is no proof of ballot fraud in Ohio and this is part of a national GOP attempt to hold down Democratic voters. But supporters countered that, based on other states with similar ID laws, there is no proof that the bill would disenfranchise anyone.
Under the current version of House Bill 159, voters would have to show either a passport, driver’s license, state ID or military ID to cast a ballot. The bill requires the state to offer state IDs for free.
A voter who does not have photo ID can cast a provisional ballot, which is not counted right away, if he or she provides a full Social Security number. Although supported by Republican Husted, the latter drew opposition from another GOP leader.
“There is no way to verify a Social Security number at this time,” said House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, whose bill did not include that alternative. “(The boards) cannot communicate at this time with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The folks at the board won’t be able to verify it.”
Full Article: Senate OKs elections revamp | The Columbus Dispatch.