ACLU Will File Suit Over Voter Photo ID Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
June 22, 2011 4:11 pm

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Unconstitutional Law Will Disenfranchise Voters, Cost to Obtain ID Amounts to Poll Tax

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COLUMBUS- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio announced today that it will file suit over provisions of Ohio House Bill 194 that require voters to produce state-issued photo identification in order to vote. HB 194 is expected to pass out of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee today, and pass the full Senate soon after. The photo ID provisions were amended into the bill on June 21, without providing groups opportunity to testify.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James L. Hardiman said, “The passage of House Bill 194 makes Ohio’s voter identification law the most restrictive in the nation. While proponents argue that the change is necessary in order to prevent voter fraud, there is simply no evidence that widespread fraud exists and that this would do anything to prevent it. State legislators will disenfranchise thousands of Ohioans to solve a problem that does not exist.”

House Bill 194 does not provide free state-issued photo identification for all voters. Courts have routinely held that states are prohibited from charging any fees in order to vote. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that voters could not be charged a poll tax. In 2006, a Georgia court ruled in Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups that the state could not charge a fee for state-issued voter identification, because it was effectively a poll tax. A section of the bill requires the state to create a process for indigent Ohioans to obtain free state photo IDs, but does not make clear how this would be paid for and who would qualify for a free ID.

“The law is very clear — the government cannot charge any fee associated with the right to vote. By requiring any voter to spend money to obtain an ID to vote, the state has created a modern day poll tax,” added Hardiman. “State lawmakers have also failed to clarify the process that indigent Ohioans must go through in order to obtain a free ID. Obviously, this hasty plan was ill-conceived from the beginning.”

The bill is likely to pass the Senate, be approved by the House, and signed by Governor Kasich in the coming days. The ACLU will begin a legal challenge on the photo identification requirements immediately after passage.

The next full Senate session will be Wednesday, June 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate chambers.

“This bill does not enhance the integrity of elections, and places a tremendous barrier for many Ohioans to access the ballot box. If the General Assembly insists on passing this bill, the ACLU will fight to ensure all people have fair and equal access to cast their vote,” concluded Hardiman.

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