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Ohio is latest focus of voter ID struggle

From msnbc.com's Tom Curry:
On Tuesday the Ohio Senate might vote on a bill to require voters to show a form of photo identification when they go to the polls.

John McClelland, a spokesman for the state’s Republican Senate caucus, said it’s unclear whether the Senate will take action on the bill before its summer recess. The senators’ immediate focus is on the state's two-year operating budget, which must be approved by Thursday.

A voter ID bill potentially has big implications since voters in Ohio may decide who becomes president.

Since World War II, Ohio has gone with the winner of the presidential election every time but once. The state, which will have 18 electoral votes in next year’s election, was decisive in 2004 and 1976, helping give narrow victories to George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Ohio, a former elections official, argued that the voter ID bill ought to be rejected. “Over the last 50 years, we have broken down barriers to voting,” she said, “We have eliminated literacy tests and poll taxes.  We have expanded early voting to accommodate voters that are working longer hours.  We should continue to make voting accessible.  This measure instead takes us backward.”

But Republicans argue the ID requirements are not burdensome and ask people to do no more than they’d have to do to rent a car, board a flight, or check into a motel.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, signaled his opposition last week to any bill that would include “a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters' ballots from counting.”

Battles are also underway over voting and voter registration in other states.

Last week the Pennsylvania state House passed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification; the state Senate hasn’t yet acted on it.

The Associated Press reported that New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed a bill Monday that would have required voters to show photo identification before they cast a ballot.

Last week in North Carolina, Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed a voter ID bill.

Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and North Carolina are potential battlegrounds in the 2012 presidential contest.

And in a related development, last week Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, signed the bill into law a bill which ends the state’s election-day registration procedure.

According to Ballot Access News, Maine had election-day registration since 1973 and had been one of eight states with that policy.

Proponents of Election Day voter registration will try to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for a referendum. “I fully expect Maine supporters of same-day registration to put a referendum on the ballot and I predict the voters will then vote to keep same-day registration,” said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News.

The trend toward requiring voters to show identification reflects the Republicans’ extraordinary success in the 2010 election. Republicans won control of legislatures in several states, including New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, and won governors’ races in 11 states which had had Democratic governors -- including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin, where last month Gov. Scott Walker signed a voter ID bill into law.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are seven strict photo ID states where voters must show a photo ID in order to vote. Voters unable to show photo ID on Election Day are permitted to cast a provisional ballot, but the voter must return to election officials within a fixed number of days after Election Day to provide the photo ID. 

NCSL said that at the beginning of the year, only two states, Georgia and Indiana, had strict photo ID laws. 

Two more, Kansas and Wisconsin, passed new strict photo ID laws this year, with a few more poised to join that group. Tennessee's new photo ID requirement takes effect next January.