Ohio Republicans Introduce Poll Tax to Solve Problem That Doesn’t Exist

Special Report: COVID-19

Use quotes to search for exact phrases. Use AND/OR/NOT between keywords or phrases for more precise search results.

Voting Shmoting

Ohio Republicans Introduce Poll Tax to Solve Problem That Doesn’t Exist

Imani Gandy

Apparently, Ohio Republicans need to protect the integrity of the election process by making sure that Johnny McVotesalot only votes once per election—and not “a lot” as his name suggests. This, even though voter fraud in the state is basically nonexistent.

Did you hear? Ohio Republicans want to charge state voters $8.50 for the privilege of voting! Apparently, they need to protect the integrity of the election process by making sure that Johnny McVotesalot only votes once per election—and not “a lot” as his name suggests.

To that end, Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) has introduced a law that would require Ohio voters to present a photo ID to vote in person. And if they don’t have a photo ID, they can buy one for $8.50 (unless they’re really really poor, but more on that later).

Brenner says the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Except it’s not. Tales of rampant voter fraud have been greatly exaggerated. Instead, it seems clear that the point of voter ID laws like Brenner’s and others is to make it harder for some people to vote, and that those people tend to be brown.

Stemming the tide of brown people voting for Democrats seems to be a top priority for the Republican Party, whose base tends to be old, white, and, if this Politico article is to be believed, on the verge of taking a permanent dirt nap.

According to this Census Bureau report, the white population is slowly dwindling. White people will make up 49.7 percent of the population in 2044. By 2060, white people will be a paltry 44 percent. That means more than half of the people in this country will be nonwhite. Now that doesn’t bother me—I, for one, welcome our new non-white Hispanic overlords—but it’s scaring the hell out of some white folks. (Just Google “white genocide” if you don’t believe me.) Enough to try and take away the voting power of non-white people any way they can—including through voter ID laws. 

But let’s pretend, just for funsies, that Brenner and company are being honest—that they’re really worried about voter fraud and think a voter ID law would prevent it.

Well, it wouldn’t. A voter ID law would prevent only one type of voter fraud: in-person voter impersonation. And do you know how often in-person voter impersonation happens? Almost never.

And besides, in 2013, Ohio concluded a massive investigation, which saw Secretary of State Jon Husted turning over every rock and peering into every nook and cranny in an effort to ferret out those individuals dumb enough to risk a felony conviction in order to vote in person more than once. And do you want to know what they found? Approximately jack and squat.

“Voter fraud does exist, but it is not an epidemic,” Husted said before pointing to a whopping 135 cases of potential voter fraud in the 2012 election.

If 135 sounds like a lot to you, consider that 5.6 million Ohioans voted in that election. Now I’m no math expert, but I’m pretty sure that 135 is quite a small percentage of 5.6 million.

And in any event, in none of those cases would photo ID have made a difference, according to Husted. The cases he did find were of people who tried to vote more than once, or non-citizens who tried to vote. “A photo ID wouldn’t have mattered in most of these cases,” were his precise words according to the Columbus Dispatch.

But Rep. Brenner seems uninterested in facts and logic. He also seems uninterested in a little document called the United States Constitution. You see, there’s a term for what Rep. Brenner is trying to do by forcing people to spend money to be able to vote. And that term is “poll tax.”

And guess what? Poll taxes are unconstitutional.

Via ThinkProgress:

The Constitution does not permit anyone to be charged any fee as a condition on their right to vote. As the Supreme Court explained in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, “a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.”

Indeed, the plurality opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Court’s 2008 opinion permitting Indiana’s voter ID law, strongly suggests that a voter ID law coupled with a mandatory fee is unconstitutional. “The fact that most voters already possess a valid driver’s license, or some other form of acceptable identification, would not save the statute under our reasoning in Harper,” the plurality explained, “if the State required voters to pay a tax or a fee to obtain a new photo identification.”

Of course, Brenner would balk at the idea that he and his GOP homies are attempting to impose a poll tax. After all, he’s being a real peach about it and permitting people who fall below the federal poverty line to get their photo ID cards for free.

Though the bill permits voters who lack ID to obtain a special voter ID card issued by the state, this card costs $8.50. One provision of the bill does permit voters to be exempted from this fee if their income “does not exceed one hundred per cent of the federal poverty guidelines,” but that’s an annual income of only $11,770 a year for a single person in 2015.

Isn’t that nice of him?

No. Not really. The federal poverty line is $11,770 for an individual, which is so absurdly low that thinking about it makes my brain shift uncomfortably in my skull. And for people trying to put food on the table, $8.50 can be the difference between eating an actual meal and suspiciously eying their family members, wondering whether human flesh tastes like chicken.

It’s absurd, but that’s what’s become of the Republican Party—forcing innocent down-on-their-luck people in Ohio to become cannibals just so they can vote.

That’s not what our Founding Fathers would have wanted.

But in all seriousness, Republicans claim that they’re concerned about the integrity of the elections, but they’re not. Not really. They are trying to prevent people who are statistically more likely to vote against them from voting at all by making it more difficult and expensive.

Shame on them.