Opinion: Ohio elections now tougher than ever



Kyle McDonald

Kyle McDonald

Kyle McDonald is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Last week, Ohio House Republicans passed a bill to stop a type of voter fraud that has never been proven to exist. We now have a photo-ID bill in Ohio, passed by an almost completely polarized vote, with only Rep. Kirk Schuring joining a Democratic no-vote.

The law requires voters to have one of four types of government-issued IDs present when casting a vote: an unexpired Ohio driver’s license, a state identification card, a United States military identification card or a U.S. passport. There were talks of adding college IDs to the list, but that didn’t happen. The bill does not affect absentee voting. Prior to this law, Ohioans were able to vote as long as they could present a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document with a name and address.

The largest concern raised over this law is the burden now placed on minority, young and elderly voters. Twenty-five percent of African Americans do not have a photo ID. One fifth of voters between age 18 and 22 do not have a photo ID. Disabled senior citizens now have to use their resources to make their way to the BMV.

Could this be the Republican election strategy for 2012? While senior votes could go either way, minority and young person votes tend to go to Democratic candidates. Every presidential election, the nation’s eyes are on Ohio, the most contested battleground state. As we know, nobody wins the presidency without winning this state. Obama only won Ohio by a five-point margin in 2008, and right now, the state is divided evenly on his re-election. Take away a portion of the Democratic vote, and now, Republicans have an edge.

The law was rushed through to prevent voter fraud, but there was no evidence presented of such fraud existing in the first place. As the Plain Dealer reports, Cuyahoga County election officials have never seen evidence of voter fraud at the polls.

Jane Platten, head of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, is quoted in the Plain Dealer saying, “In terms of someone going to polling location and impersonating someone else, I have never seen it. It’s never been brought to my attention that it has ever happened in Cuyahoga County.”

It’s unfortunate that our elected officials continue to create solutions to non-existent problems instead of focusing on actual tangible ones. In the past, Ohio received national attention for notoriously awful lines at polling locations, which kept would-be voters from casting their votes. Instead of working to ensure that everyone casts their vote, it would seem that Republicans are working in other ways to cut down the lines at voting locations.

All this aside, we have what’s being called the most restrictive voter law in the country, with more reforms being devised. Be aware of this come election day. Even if we believe these laws to be unconstitutional, it will take years for that decision to be made. As voters, we must prepare ourselves properly to have our voice be heard.