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Beware of voter photo ID laws

(photo/ usgwarchives.org)

Primary day is around the corner and it is our civic duty and right to vote. In Ohio, though, our elected officials seek to take away this right. They are attempting this un-American feat with a voter suppression bill known as Ohio H.B. 159, which is a voter photo ID law. Not much has been heard of this bill since it last passed the House, but there is talk of passing it again, albeit under a different name.

This bill, or any other bill with the same goal, would address a nonexistent problem to alienate voters through photo identification cards. In particular, this photo ID law would punish college students from out-of-state. Such blatant voter disenfranchisement cannot stand and must be defeated for our democratic system to continue.

H.B. 159 is a tried and tested tactic to discretely disenfranchise voters through voter identification. H.B. 159 and other bills like it require voters to present one of the forms of identification: an Ohio driver’s license, state ID, military ID, or U.S. passport.

In and of itself, this does not seem overly wrong. Until, that is, you realize who it leaves out: those who can’t afford photo

IDs, such as the poor, and those who can’t drive or don’t have a license from the state, like the elderly and college students.

For many, the driver’s license requirement kills their chance of voting.
If you are in poverty, you are likely not
to have a car, thus negating the need of a license. If one is poor, though, and needs a license just to vote, it would require them to and a way to get to the DMV and then suffer in line to buy a license. Since many think their vote won’t make a difference anyway, photo IDs effectively exclude the poor.

For the elderly, many don’t have a car, and if they do, they are likely to not drive. If this is the case, they most likely won’t have an up-to-date license, and similar to the poor, will not be able to vote.

As for college students, H.B. 159 does not allow college issued ID cards to be used. Further, it prevents students from using their college address to claim residency.

For out-of-state students, like me, this is particularly offensive, as we spend most of the year in Ohio. In my case, I am far more attached and involved in Ohio politics than Illinois politics, yet I would be unable to vote in the state I call home.

My case is not isolated, however. According to “The New Political,” 900,000 Ohio voters don’t have Ohio issued photo ID cards and will not be allowed to vote under H.B. 159.

Some of these are college students like me or those who simply don’t have the money or access to photo IDs. To prevent nearly 10 percent of Ohio’s population from voting is simply despicable.

No one can deny that a significant number of voters would be disenfranchised. There are those, however, who argue that such laws like H.B. 159 are necessary to stop voter fraud. While such an argument seems legitimate on the surface, facts show otherwise.

The reality is that voter fraud is non- existent. According to the New York University School of Law Brennan Center for Justice, the voter fraud rate in Ohio is 0.00004 percent. Since Ohio has 8.2 million registered voters, this means at worst, 33 people vote fraudulently. In 2002 to 2004, there were only four people who voted illegally.

While it is unfortunate that even one person seeks to vote fraudulently, voting fraud is not a significant problem. It
is more likely for someone to die by lightning strike than commit voter fraud. To add insult to injury, H.B. 159 and bills like it would cost the state $20 million according to the Advancement Project. To spend millions of dollars to prevent nonexistent voter fraud and stop 900,000 people from voting is appalling. H.B. 159 is not just idiotic public policy; it's active voter suppression.

Voting is one of our most beloved rights, a right that as Americans we have fought and died for. Yet if we remain complacent, our own elected officials will attempt to take away this freedom. Our elected officials claim photo ID laws are necessary, but this is a blatant lie as voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.

Voter photo ID laws are simply an attempt to disenfranchise voters. To make matters worse, we have to foot the $20 million bill. No matter which way you look at it, photo ID laws are, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, un-American.