Press Release: House Dem Leader Calls on Husted to Stand Firm against Modern-Day Poll Tax
June 21, 2011 · Print This Article
Letter to Jon Husted outlines concern over bills, urges bipartisan approach
COLUMBUS – Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) today called on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to oppose efforts in the Legislature to impose a modern-day poll tax by requiring a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. He outlined his objections to this bill and other legislation that would restrict the rights of Ohioans to vote in a letter delivered to the Secretary of State today.
“Passage of these bills will deprive thousands of Ohioans of their right to vote and will drive the state into years of expensive litigation,” said Leader Budish in his letter. “As such, I ask that you rise above what is clearly a partisan-driven legislative agenda and work together with all parties to build a positive election law framework. I stand ready to work with you on a cooperative, bipartisan approach for the good of all Ohioans.”
One of the elections bills, HB 194, may come to the House floor for a vote this week. The Senate has included the requirement for a government issued photo ID in order to be permitted to cast a ballot in HB 194.
The text of Leader Budish’s letter is below.
Dear Secretary Husted:
I write to you today with great concern about several election law changes – House Bills 194 and 159 (now combined in one bill by the Ohio Senate), and Senate Bill 148 – currently pending before the state legislature. Attempts by members of my caucus to contact you about the urgent problems with these bills have been unreturned. Now, passage of a bill that will return us to the chaos and long lines of 2004 is just days away.
As Speaker, you passed several election law changes that have, by and large, been successful in making voting in Ohio more accessible. These changes include adopting early voting opportunities for 35 days prior to Election Day; permitting counties to choose to mail absentee ballot applications; and adopting a reasonable list of voter identification documents. The proposals currently pending undermine all of these reasonable provisions and will adversely impact Ohioans’ right to vote.
First, the restrictive voter ID requirements proposed in HB 159 – and now included in HB 194 – constitute a modern-day, unconstitutional poll tax. If included, this provision could prevent thousands of African-American, poor, elderly and college-age Ohioans from voting. There is absolutely no need or reason for these new restrictions, except to suppress voting rights.
Second, rules prohibiting larger counties from mailing absentee ballot applications and restricting the period of early voting will result in a return to long lines on Election Day in the large counties. While the sponsors of these bills have argued that “equal protection” requires using a “one-size-fits-all” approach for Ohio’s 88 diverse counties, in fact the opposite is true.
As the U.S. Supreme Court instructed in Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires citizens to be treated equally. Cutting early voting from 35 days to only 11 or 6 days – with no evening or Sunday hours, and no voting on the final three days before the election – will cause a much greater burden (and long lines) at polling places on Election Day. This will significantly impact a county with 1 million residents much more than a county with only 20,000 residents. The same unfair and unequal outcome will result from prohibiting the mailing of absentee ballot applications.
Third, a variety of other provisions in these bills also violate Ohioans’ voting rights. For example, tossing out votes if a poll worker mistakenly points a voter to the wrong table in a polling place is absurd.
We have proposed adding a field to the ballot envelope for the poll worker to write the voter’s correct precinct. If the field isn’t correctly filled out, the voter’s ballot would be counted instead of thrown out. The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently noted it had “significant due-process concerns regarding the disenfranchisement of qualified voters solely on account of known error caused by a state actor.”
The pending bills also would require a person’s vote to be thrown out based on a technicality, even when the voter’s intent is crystal clear. For example, let’s consider a voter who fills in the oval next to a candidate name and also writes in the name, or a voter who spells a candidate’s name wrong when it is crystal clear who the voter chose. Today, Ohio and nearly every other state count these votes; the pending bills would throw out these votes.
Other provisions that unfairly impact Ohioans’ voting rights include: 1) requiring voters to put their identity at risk by giving their full 9-digit Social Security number on forms, 2) allowing absentee and provisional ballots to be thrown out for lack of non-essential items like zip codes, and 3) continuing to disallow student ID’s as a valid voter ID.
The provisions in these bills are unfair and in many cases unconstitutional. There is no bipartisan consensus on these bills and almost all Democratic amendments have been rejected.
Secretary Husted, passage of these bills will deprive thousands of Ohioans of their right to vote and will drive the state into years of expensive litigation. As such, I ask that you rise above what is clearly a partisan-driven legislative agenda and work together with all parties to build a positive election law framework. I stand ready to work with you on a cooperative, bipartisan approach for the good of all Ohioans.
Ohio House Democratic Leader