Voting rights activists scored a victory in the Buckeye State on Friday when a controversial voter ID bill died in the state Senate.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) announced that House Bill 159 was not expected to move out of committee in the Senate. The legislation originally passed in his chamber of the General Assembly.
The law would have required state residents to show a photo ID before voting at a polling place. Opponents claimed that the legislation would have adversely affected minority and elderly voters who may not have access to proper identification. Observers were also concerned that Ohio’s status as a key swing state in presidential elections would open the door for rumored voter suppression efforts in the state.
Republicans originally pushed for the bill because they wanted stronger requirements for voters to prevent fraud. Speaker Batchelder said that efforts to toughen voter ID laws may be reintroduced in future General Assemblies, but for now the bill would not make it to the Senate floor for a full vote.
The GOP position on the voter ID bill is part of a larger conservative push across the country to verify the identities of voters in every election.
Ohio’s position as a battleground state has put all eyes have been on their voting efforts in the past few presidential elections. An extra effort was made in 2008 to protect urban residents in Ohio from voter fraud. The sentiment in certain communities has been that extra efforts are being made to suppress or intimidate specific blocs of voters.
Currently, 14 states have voter ID laws that either require or suggest that voters show a valid photo ID before casting a ballot. In many cases, those without identification may vote with a provisional ballot and must show an ID within days of the election. Ohio, along with 15 additional states, have laws that allow for non-photo identification, such as utility bills, to be presented at polling locations.
Of the seven states that make photo IDs mandatory, ironically, all of them are led by Republican governors. Five of those states were carried by former Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the 2008 election.