Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unintended consequences revisited: when two laws create combined misery

As the Buckeye State’s Republican-controlled General Assembly and governor's mansion try to move forward in making Ohio a voter ID state, I am reminded of a previous hassle I recently endured with another state law.

Lawmakers bound to the Ohio Republican Party are pushing forward with HB159, which if enacted would be dubbed the “Ohio Fair and Secured Elections Act.”

This General Assembly house bill, which draws a harsh analysis from’s John Michael Spinelli, would require voters to furnish a state photo ID or other form of identification from a short list of options before being able to cast their votes in a primary or general election in Ohio.

In my opinion, this plan has the potential to hit a key snag given the newly-created potential difficulties of obtaining a new license or ID after you move into a new residence.

My prediction is misery will abound when these two measures collide at the expense of many Ohio residents.

I sent an e-mail to state lawmakers from the west-central region explaining the pitfalls of last year’s new ID law. Earlier this week, I received a postal-mail response from House Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman.

Instead of transcribing portions of Representative Huffman’s letter I simply am attaching my e-mail response below – which includes references to his correspondence with me.

Toward the end, I make my case for how these two measures – one already on the books and one making its way through chambers – will likely combine to disenfranchise voters across Ohio.


Representative Huffman,

I received your letter and I appreciate your reply.

Expanding the list to include the signed lease for acceptable proof of new residence was a basic matter of common sense. I find it surprising it wasn't in the original language of the bill which has become this portion of the Ohio Revised Code's language.

Three suggestions (as you requested) when it comes to aiding the economically displaced residents who are being affected by this law would be to allow them to present a notarized letter signed by the individual(s) needing a new license and the person(s) with whom they now reside, allow mail which has the yellow forwarding sticker affixed by the USPS, as well as doing more to inform the public of this new law. In most circumstances, public notary services are free of charge so this also would be a common-sense update.

In the information you included in your letter, it is not clear at all whether forwarded mail is acceptable.

With my initial e-mail, I stressed the fact that my wife is disabled and just getting to the BMV is a significant undertaking. Going in and waiting in line means draining what little energy she is able to muster for such an evolution. These new proof of residency stipulations have the potential to adversely impact not only the disabled but also the elderly.

When my wife, Marcy, and I went to update our licenses we were completely caught unaware that day. In light of the fact she spent most of May (and much of June) in the hospital receiving treatment for leukemia she still needs to obtain a new license from the local BMV office.

My concerns here are not based on any misguided notion of Social Justice but out of concern for those who are placed in a situation of great difficulty just to be in compliance with state law. From my own experience, the manner in which the new law inhibited my ability to get a new license resulted in me having to pay a $20 late fee. My birthday was May 4 and this year I was due to renew my license anyhow. I was not able to procure an acceptable proof of residency until after the seven-day grace period.

Had I been forced to go longer without a renewed license and were I to have needed to interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop, this law could very well have resulted in me being cited for driving with an expired license – which I would have fought in court in light of the circumstances. In this hypothetical situation, should I have won such a court ruling, you and your fellow legislators may well have been looking at this law being tossed-out and needing to start from scratch in order to put something similar to it on the books.

The more I contemplate this law, the more obvious it is to me that when it was being crafted, proper thought had not been given to the fact that in this electronic age, more and more billing, payments, banking, and other such business are being handled online to reduce paper correspondence. Such as with the documentation I procured for getting my license renewed, I had to go to Spherion and get a pay stub in person with my new address on it. With everything that has transpired personally recently I was unable to attempt this sooner.

Adding to the comedy of the overall situation is the fact my bank requires its customers to furnish a new ID with their new address before it will update it on their accounts. Obviously, this policy by the bank is intended to reduce its customers' risk for fraud or identity theft.

In fairness, I understand completely why these hoops were put in place: to prevent the degree of voter fraud which took place in the 2008 general election and created significant embarrassment for Ohio; and to a lesser degree ensure the growing number of illegal immigrants in our state are unable to fraudulently obtain Ohio drivers' licenses and other false identification.

Speaking of the issue of voting, I am aware there is an effort as of late to add the requirement for presentation of identification at polling places on days of election. When you couple all the difficulties described above (and in previous correspondence) in simply obtaining a new Ohio license with this election fraud initiative, now we are approaching the risk of significant – if not widespread – voter disenfranchisement. The litigation from such a development alone would result in tremendous legal expenses for the state and further add to the embarrassment of Ohio.

I would hope at this point it is obvious that the (both potential and very real) unnecessary obstacles to Ohio residents begin mounting rapidly once this situation is given proper thought. The new law carries with it considerable unintended consequences for Ohioans. We should not have to jump through so many hurdles to – again – simply be in compliance with state laws.

Thank you for your time,

Don Kissick

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