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The Daily Need

Ohio voter I.D. bill hits roadblock

Voters cast absentee ballots in 2008 in Columbus, Ohio, under a disputed early voting law that allows new voters to register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Ohio’s new proposed voter identification bill – potentially one of the strictest in the country – just hit a serious roadblock. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted just signaled that he’s against the bill as currently written, calling its provisions “rigid.”

According to a statement, Husted said, “I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes. I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting.”

As we reported earlier this month, Ohio’s proposed voter identification bill would make a government-issued photo I.D. (like a driver’s license or a military I.D.) the sole form of identification voters can use on election day.  The bill would eliminate many of the other forms of I.D. that are currently acceptable under Ohio law.

Need to Know interviewed the co-sponsor of that legislation, Republican State Representative Robert Mecklenborg. He argued that this change was needed to “simplify the process” and to root out voter fraud (though the evidence of such fraud has been hard to pinpoint.)  Democrats argued that this bill is really intended to make it harder for groups that generally vote for Democrats to vote. They point out that groups such as racial minorities, students and people with lower incomes are far less likely to have the government issued I.D. that’s required by this bill. Ohio Democratic State Representative Kathleen Clyde told us, “A lot of the provisions in these bills will make it very difficult on urban voters and on minority voters and lower income voters and student voters.  Those voters trend Democratic. And I think we’re coming up upon a big presidential election where Ohio will undoubtedly be a crucial state, and those constituencies are very important to the Democratic vote turnout in Ohio elections.”

As we reported, Ohio isn’t the only state changing its election laws — at least 17 states are making some significant changes to their voting laws just six months before the major presidential primaries begin. Election law expert Daniel Tokaji told Need to Know that he fears these changes will cause confusion on Election Day. “Let’s bear in mind, most of this stuff is going under the radar,” Tokaji said. “What’s likely to happen is that a lot of voters are going to show up at the polling place at their primaries in 2012, or in November 2012, and find, to their dismay, that the rules have changed and that it’s going to be more difficult to vote and have one’s vote counted.”