The Swing State of Ohio Might Finally Be Getting a Photo Voter ID Law

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A group of Republican lawmakers in Ohio will introduce a bill in the Ohio House next week that will require a driver's license, state ID card, passport, or military ID in order to cast a ballot in person in the state.

"This is a bill which I believe is very important for the state of Ohio for the sanctity of our election system, for the sanctity of making sure that it is one person, one vote and they are in fact residents and citizens of the United States,” said Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), the primary sponsor of the bill, in a press conference this week.

The bill is similar to one that was introduced last year that died in committee. Under current law Ohioans can show a variety of forms of ID when voting that do not include a photo including utility bills, bank statements, or government checks.

Under the proposed legislation, the state would provide, at no charge, a state ID to anyone who cannot afford one. Rep. Brenner told PJ Media that even though there could be 40,000 people a year who qualify for free ID cards, "The most it would cost the state is $150,000, according to the [Legislative Service Commission] analysis. That's really a drop in the bucket to secure our elections."

Brenner said they're also considering adding a provision that would pay for birth certificates for those who cannot afford them. "If someone needs a birth certificate and they're indigent, we may also have the state pay for that so there will be absolutely no excuse for anybody not getting a photo ID," he said.

He disputed claims by critics who say voter fraud is non-existent in the state and pointed to a report released earlier this year by Secretary of State Jon Husted that identified more than 400 non-citizens who were registered to vote in Ohio, 44 of whom had cast ballots. In addition, several instances of voter fraud have led to indictments in Hamilton County, while nearly 100 cases of double voting were discovered in the Columbus area in recent years.

Brenner also said that the photo ID law will help to address the problem of non-resident college students voting in Ohio. "They're impacting some local governments and local decision making on either levies or other issues and yet they're not going to live there permanently," said Brenner. "And we don't know if these college students are voting in both locations because there's no way to track them. They could theoretically be voting absentee in their home state and living here in Ohio and voting here as well."

Gov. Kasich recently used his line-item veto to eliminate an item in the highway budget that would have made it harder for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio. Kasich, who is contemplating a presidential run, suggested in 2011 that he might sign a photo ID bill, but has since rebranded himself as a centrist who avoids contentious fights with Democrats, so it would be difficult to imagine him wading into a battle over voter ID with the distraction of a presidential campaign on his mind (even though he would stand to benefit from greater integrity in Ohio's elections). Secretary of State Husted opposed a photo ID requirement in previous legislative sessions, but since that time has been an outspoken advocate of identifying illegal voters.

Brenner said the bill currently has 23 co-sponsors and he expects a few more to sign on before the bill is filed next week.