Voting rights advocates, who have been busy protesting voter ID laws across the country in 2011, earned a major victory in Ohio Thursday when state House Speaker William Batchelder (R) indicated that state Senate Republicans would not move on a proposed voter ID law. The bill, which passed the House earlier this year, is opposed by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and the GOP-controlled state Senate. The Columbus Dispatch reports:
“I think we’ll probably not see it again,” said House Speaker William G. Batchelder after a brief legislative session today. “There’s a limit to the amount of times you want to run your head into a wall, and it makes your ears ring.” [...]
Later, Batchelder spokesman Mike Dittoe said, “Obviously, the speaker wants the bill passed by the Senate, but I don’t believe he has any indication the Senate will be moving on it anytime soon. Certainly our (House GOP) caucus believes that voter fraud is and could be a bigger problem, and every single poll, no matter what polling entity you use, indicates that the American people believe that as well.”
Though Ohio’s voter ID bill is dead for now, Gov. John Kasich (R) did sign a sweeping election reform law that banned various early voting methods used by more than 200,000 voters in Ohio’s capital alone. Like Kasich’s other landmark bill, that law is also subject to a referendum campaign. Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, meanwhile, says this likely isn’t the end of voter ID efforts in Ohio. “(This will) be it for the voter ID until a new batch of tea party freshmen join the Republican caucus and go about the business of disenfranchisement,” he told the Dispatch.
And while this is a victory for the voting rights movement, voter ID laws continue to go into effect across the country. As many as 22 states this year considered voter ID laws as they attempted to address the virtually nonexistent voter fraud “problem.” The efforts have drawn sharp rebukes from Democrats and voting and civil rights groups. Former President Clinton and representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus compared the efforts to disenfranchise voters to the South’s discriminatory Jim Crow laws and other efforts to disenfranchise minority voters during and prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), a CBC member who is pushing the Justice Department to review the new laws, was happy to see the GOP abandon the bill. “I am pleased to see that Republicans have come to understand the detrimental effects of an ID bill on the electorate,” Fudge told ThinkProgress. “In our democracy, everyone has the right to vote, yet these strategically orchestrated measures attempt to stifle voting much more than encourage it. I can’t understand any other reason to mandate these limitations other than to continue an effort to disenfranchise certain voters.”