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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011

Photo-ID ruse

A BILL the Ohio House passed Wednesday would require voters to produce government-issued photo identification before they could cast ballots in person. Sponsors say the measure would prevent vote fraud. Actually, it's a solution in search of a problem.

The true intent seems to be to make it harder for some Ohioans to vote — especially those who would be less likely to vote the way the bill's supporters, mostly Republicans, would prefer.

Evidence of people who try to vote more than once — the ostensible targets of the legislation — is scant. Valid forms of identification for Ohio voters now include photo IDs, a copy of a current utility bill, a paycheck, or another government document that shows the voter's name and address. These are adequate.

The proposed law would restrict accepted forms of voter identification to Ohio driver's licenses and state ID cards, military identification, a U.S. passport, or a new, free photo ID that the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles would dispense to indigent citizens who qualify.

House Democratic Leader Armond Budish estimates nearly 900,000 Ohioans may lack the identification the bill would require. Providing free ID cards to large numbers of voters would cost millions of dollars the state doesn't have.

The measure would create an unnecessary burden on voters, especially elderly, poor, and minority citizens and college students. Only a few other states have similar laws.

Opponents correctly call the voter-ID bill, which the House rammed through in barely a week, the 21st-century equivalent of a poll tax. It could disfranchise thousands of Ohio voters. The Senate should reject it.

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