Testimony of Jennifer Brunner
Ohio Senate Rules Committee
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

(These are Jennifer Brunner’s prepared remarks. Her actual remarks may have deviated
slightly from the prepared text.)

My name is Jennifer Brunner. I am an attorney in private practice, a former judge, former Legislative Counsel to the Ohio Secretary of State and a former member of the Franklin County Board of Elections. I appreciate your time this afternoon.

I am here to testify in opposition to the provisions of Sub. House Bill No.3 that will require voters to present identification to be able to vote. Under the provisions of the bill as presented to the committee on Monday of this week, here are the steps a previously registered voter would have to take to be able to vote.

1. Present a current and valid photo identification that includes:
a. The voter’s name
b. The voter’s address
c. The voter’s photo
d. An expiration date that has not expired, and
e. Is issued by the US or Ohio government.
2. If this is not available, present a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows name and address of voter.

3. If these are not available, provide the last 4 digits of the voter’s social security number, BUT this only will allow for a provisional ballot.

4. If the voter does not wish to do this, sign an affirmation, BUT this only will allow for a provisional ballot.

While this bill is a stated attempt to prevent fraud, at the same time, it allows, for the first time, election documents to be signed by someone other than the voter. These provisions just don’t square with one another with the bill’s stated reason being to prevent fraud. The old maxim is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Our current system, one where election officials compare signatures to confirm identity, where a challenge has always been available if there is a question, and the threat of felony criminal prosecution looms, has worked well and been judged effective in election after election.

It’s been said in these proceedings that the proposal to require voter identification is a move away from using signatures to verify identification. That is impracticable with the petition process we continue to utilize. For petitions, requesting and returning absentee ballots, registering and voting, signatures have been the hallmark of voter identification. Will the next step be to require petition circulators to obtain identification from each signer before they can sign a petition? I don’t think that our founders intended such obstacles to petitioning our government for the redress of grievances.

Since 2002, according to the League of Women Voters, there have been only four individual instances of vote fraud in the entire State of Ohio. Mandating a technical and cumbersome identification process is a “solution” that creates a problem.

This provision disproportionately affects the elderly, the impoverished and minority communities in Ohio. It also affects many young and first-time voters who may not have yet obtained a proper form of ID. A recent Wisconsin study finds that 30% of youth from 18 to 24 years do not have official state identification, with 98% of college students having only non-local IDs. The League of Women Voters in Ohio found that 4% of adults 18 and over do not have a driver’s license or state issued ID, more than 300,000 Ohioans. Many elderly Ohioans no longer have driver’s licenses.

Even if you can’t identify with persons in these groups, imagine the scenario where your wife, son or daughter, or your sister or your elderly uncle appears at the polls at 7:00 p.m., one-half hour before closing time. He or she doesn’t realize until arriving at the polling location that they do not have their photo ID with them. They can’t get home and back in time to bring another photo ID or any other required paperwork. Let’s say they go ahead and give the last 4 digits of their social security number or sign an affirmation. They will not be able to vote like everyone else at the polling place. They will be
relegated to voting a provisional ballot, something that is not even defined in Ohio law, even though they are in the correct precinct and even though they sign the poll book and their signature matches.

At the same time, because you are eliminating the ability for the board of elections or Secretary of State to utilize split shifts of poll workers, you have a retiree working the 13-plus-hour day at the polling place who must use discretion to determine if the ID presented is valid. All the while, lines keep getting longer, people are getting tired, pollworkers are getting tired, and people are upset and uncertain about being told they can only vote a provisional ballot, when many times, they have known their pollworkers for years, and their pollworkers know them. Do you really want to be responsible for setting up this scenario, in light of so little evidence that there is a problem?

Then there is the issue of giving up private information, such as the last 4 digits of their social security number. Already, many businesses ask only for the last 4 digits of a social security number to verify identity. So why would a criminal need the rest of the numbers? Ohioans, in order to exercise the most basic franchise of democracy—to vote—will be entrusting to their government—whose records are public—their most sensitive and private information.

Voting is a personalized matter. Voters don’t see and don’t care about what goes into the overall process—what they care about is what is their individual voting experience. Were they able to vote quickly and easily? Were they treated courteously? Were they given privacy without the pollworker or another person looking over their shoulder? Do they feel confident that their vote will be counted accurately? Did they get their sticker to show they voted? These are the things that matter to voters.

The voter identification requirements in Sub. H.B. 3 will not allow voters to answer “yes” with confidence to any of the above questions, (except perhaps whether or not they got their sticker.)

How many times have you paid for something at a store, and the clerk states the sales tax and grumbles, “And this much for the government”?

What will the quip be on election day when the poll worker asks for a signature, then for identification, then perhaps for more identification, then tells the voter that they can’t use the new machines and have to move to another area and vote where, perhaps there isn’t the same amount of privacy, and all of this must happen in front of their neighbors? I can assure you it will be more than a grumble.

The voter identification requirements of Sub. H. B. 3 are a bad idea—they are a “solution” that creates a problem and will put our state into further disgrace as to how we run our elections. I urge you to defeat this provision.

Thank you.