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June 24, 2011

Sudden Rush

Sudden rush

June 22, 2011

The House rushed to approve a flawed photo ID requirement for Ohio voters. Now Republican senators are doing the same

In March, Republicans in charge of the Ohio House hustled to passage misguided legislation requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The expectation was, the state Senate would take a more deliberative approach, even put off action until the fall. Then, on Tuesday morning, Keith Faber, the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, delivered the big surprise: The photo ID proposal would be folded into a larger elections bill headed for a committee vote in the afternoon and a floor vote today.

Faber argued, essentially, the timing is right, the elections bill headed for passage. Of course, he and his colleagues have known about the long-in-the-works elections proposal for months. If anything, the photo ID bill offended so many because it did not receive the ample airing of the overhaul legislation.

Now, the Senate simply has incorporated the flawed language of the House bill, the requirement that voters present a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued identification card with a photograph. Sound fairly reasonable? Consider that many people with disabilities do not have such identification. One estimate holds that one-quarter of African-Americans and one-fifth of Ohioans over age 65 do not have a photo ID.

Remember, Republican lawmakers already addressed the identification requirement a few years ago, many voters now showing a photo ID at the polls, or a copy of a current utility bill, paycheck or other government document that contains the voter’s name and address. All of this was done in the name of preventing voter fraud, though the problem didn’t exist then — and it still does not.

Jon Husted, the secretary of state, has explained, reasonably, that he could support the photo ID requirement as long as voters have other options for proving their identity at the polls. He now has been stiffed by his fellow Republicans.

The thinking of the majority is curious. Republicans have fanned concern for the false problem of voter fraud, the party of less bureaucracy adding new hoops. In doing so, they have opened the way to real concerns, registered voters facing undue difficulties casting ballots, disenfranchisement, in a word.

Not surprisingly, many of the affected voters are more likely to side with Democratic candidates. The photo ID proposal fits into the pattern of Republican majorities in other states. More, it reflects subtler changes in the larger elections bill, broadening the field for voter error and disqualification, leaving ballots vulnerable to mistakes by poll workers, excessively narrowing the time for early voting.

Republicans carp about the sharp elbows of Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and the previous secretary of state. Yet she sought a truly inclusive effort to repair the shortcomings in Ohio elections. Now that process has devolved, Republicans inviting the impression of a party in power looking to serve first its own agenda, not the larger interest of the state.

June 24, 2011

Right to Work Causing Controversy

Right to Work Causing Controversy
Jun 21, 2011

Michigan avoided the kind of labor unrest they experienced in Wisconsin earlier this year, but one democratic leader predicts, if conservative republicans start to push right to work legislation, it will create a devastating fight between business and labor.

It drew national attention when organized labor fought the republicans in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights. The state democratic party chair predicts the same thing could happen here if conservative republicans push right to work in order to create more jobs, they claim.

Mark Brewer, State Democratic Chair: “It won’t create jobs. It will create the biggest multi-year devastating fight that will be all over the national news. Why would anyone want to invest here when we have that kind of fighting here in Michigan?”

Ironically the Republican governor agrees with the democratic party chair. Gov. Snyder says such a debate would be devastating, and while he would sign a right to work bill if it got to his desk, he says it is not one of his priorities. It is a high priority for one GOP conservative.

Rep. Marty Knollenberg, (R) Oakland County: “We’re not abolishing unions. We’re simply saying you should be forced to join a union. Once the public understands that, we’ll get greater buy in.”

Right to work legislation is getting a push from the tea party movement, which reports, in other states, it is working.

Tom Norton, pro-right to work: “These states are growing economically. The unemployment is low. The wages are a lot higher than Michigan.”

Ray Holman, UAW 6000: “We’re facing 70 bad bills that attack collective bargaining rights, and then to add this to the mix is just going to upset people, really.”

Which is what the governor wants to avoid here, but some conservatives say they will move on this later on nonetheless.