Interest is building among House Republicans to revisit a controversial elections issue: requiring Ohio voters to show photo ID at the polls. A bill to require voters to produce a state driver’s license, state ID card or passport passed the House in the past session, but died in the Senate.
Mike Dovilla, a Berea Republican who chairs the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, said he wants to root out voter fraud. But evidence of deliberate fraud is extremely rare, one study finding nine cases of voter impersonation nationwide from 2000 to 2007.
What’s more, Ohio already has a voter ID requirement. It often is fulfilled with a photo ID, but also allows other forms of documentation, such as a current utility bill, helpful for the estimated one million Ohio voters who lack a photo ID. Dovilla and his colleagues also should recall that voters must provide documentation when they register. Providing ID at the polls merely confirms information that already has been checked.
Fortunately, majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate are not making a photo ID requirement a top priority. Neither is Jon Husted. The secretary of state, a Republican, was instrumental in blocking the requirement when it reached the Senate in the past session.
Ohio does need to revisit its election laws, dealing with early voting hours, online voter registration, provisional balloting and how congressional and legislative districts are drawn, among other matters. As Husted wisely has urged, the job must be accomplished in a bipartisan way.
Yes, Republicans are firmly in control of both chambers. But a referendum threat and legal action by the Obama campaign stopped their efforts to curtail early voting and make other changes to elections law that Democrats accurately perceived as having a disproportionate impact on poor and minority voters.
Unfortunately, Dovilla’s recent comments about a photo ID requirement have set the wrong tone for moving forward. Rather than attacking a problem that doesn’t exist, he and his colleagues would do well to reach across the aisle to ensure fair elections and equal access for all voters.