HB 159 Will Make It Harder to Kill SB 5

Does your school district have a student briefcase policy? That is, something that governs whether or not students can bring briefcases to school, and what they can do with them. More than likely your answer to the question was no, because students don’t bring briefcases to school. A school board that created a briefcase policy would, in effect, be creating a solution in search of a problem that didn’t exist.

Some Ohio legislators have created a briefcase policy of their own, a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. Their solution is called House Bill 159. The problem it is in search of is in-person voter impersonation fraud, when an individual goes to a polling place, pretends to be someone they are not and then votes.

Ohio election law currently requires in-person voters to verify their identity by providing photo ID or non-photo ID. The latter includes documents that contain a voter’s name and address, like bank statements, government documents or utility bills.

HB 159 aims to prevent in-person voter impersonation fraud by only allowing Ohio election officials to accept photo ID from in-person voters. The problem is, there aren’t any documented cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud occurring in Ohio to support the need for this bill. Hang on folks, it gets worse.

Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel B. Tokaji is an Ohio election-law expert who provided written testimony opposing HB 159 to the House State Government and Elections Committee. In his testimony, Professor Tokaji said that the bill’s photo ID requirement for in-person voting would disproportionately affect “young, elderly, disabled and minority voters.”

HB 159 also requires in-person absentee voters to provide photo ID. Tokaji questioned the motivation of the Republican-controlled House’s inclusion of this provision, saying that “…Democrats are more likely to cast in-person absentee ballots.” Professor Tokaji called HB 159 “the worst election bill that I have seen in eight years of studying Ohio’s election system” and urged the committee to “reject it outright.”

In late February and early March, we began speaking publicly about the inevitability of a statewide referendum effort to get rid of Senate Bill 5. On March 15, HB 159 was introduced in the Ohio House. The bill moved through the House at lightning speed, taking only eight days from its introduction in committee to get to a floor vote on March 23. The House passed the HB 159 on a 58-38 party line vote exactly one week before the Governor signed SB 5 into law.

HB 159 is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, June 22 in the Senate’s State & Local Government & Veterans Affairs Committee. If it passes, this bill will make it harder for young, elderly, disabled and minority Ohioans who are to vote. We must oppose this bill as strongly as we have opposed Senate Bill 5. To find out who your State Senator is, click here.

By Phil Hayes, Columbus Education Association

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