COLUMBUS — Legislation requiring Ohio voters to show a government-issued photo ID before casting in-person ballots passed the House on a near party-line vote Wednesday after heated debate.
The vote was 57-38 on House Bill 159, which now goes to the Senate. Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, understands the importance of election reform although the bill is not among the Senate’s priorities, said Jason Mauk, Niehaus’ spokesman.
Rep. Kirk Schuring of Canton was the only Republican to join all Democrats present in opposing the bill. All “yes” votes came from the GOP.
“This bill is no different than the times of the poll tax,” said Rep. Clayton Luckie, D-Dayton, one of several black lawmakers who said the bill harked back to the days when blacks were disenfranchised.
Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, joint sponsor, disagreed.
“The goal is to insure the integrity of the election process and provide a common sense means of combating voter fraud and the perception of voter fraud,” said Blessing.
After the vote, Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, admonished Democrats for insinuating that racism was involved.
Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, called the bill a “partisan attack on the right to vote,” targeting the elderly, the young, minorities and poor.
About the only thing Democrats and Republicans agreed on was an amendment to allow expired as well as current Ohio drivers’ licenses to be used as photo ID. Rep. Roland Winburn, D-Harrison Twp., cast the only vote against the amendment. Winburn called it “hypocritical” for Republicans to offer the amendment after pushing a bill to limit voting.
Eight other states have similar laws, but the bill is closest to those in Indiana and Georgia.
Photo IDs acceptable would be: Ohio driver’s license; Ohio identification card; U.S. military ID and U.S. passport.
It would require the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to provide free state IDs to those who document they can’t afford to buy them.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s top elections officer, has not taken a position on the bill.
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