November 28, 2014

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Ohio Senate committee drops voter photo plan


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio Senate panel on Wednesday dropped from a broader package of election law changes a provision that would have required voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot in person.

Lawmakers moved to delete the proposal a day after the state’s top elections official joined Democrats and the League of Women Voters in opposing the photo ID plan. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said he was against it because it didn’t give voters other ways to identify themselves, such as with their Social Security numbers.

While the committee stripped the requirement from the bill, a separate piece of legislation pending in the Senate would carry the same picture ID mandate for voters. A different Senate committee has scheduled a vote on that bill for Thursday.

Husted said he talked to Senate leaders about his concerns Tuesday night. Appearing at Wednesday’s committee meeting but not testifying, he told reporters the photo ID requirement could create chaos.

“What we had in the bill … were a variety of different standards. Some were confusing, some created incentives to game the system while at the same time disenfranchise perfectly legal voters,” the secretary said.

The photo ID questions come as the Republican-controlled House and Senate work out their differences in election bills they passed separately. The House’s version required a picture ID at the polls.

The election overhaul also would reduce the number of early voting days in the state from the current 35-day window. Voters would have 21 days to vote by mail and could cast a ballot in person 17 days before Election Day. The legislation also gets rid of a five-day early-voting period in which new voters can register and cast a ballot.