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Online Voter Registration Raises Concerns Of Disabled, ADA Expert
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This year, about 106,000 Ohioans changed their voter registration information online.
Marion Parker was not one of them.
The Oberlin resident is blind and doesnâ€™t have a driverâ€™s license, one of the requirements for using the new online system.
â€œIf anybody needs to be able to change their voter registration, itâ€™s people who a.) donâ€™t leave their house because they canâ€™t, or people who b.) just canâ€™t go to the board of elections office in their local area to change their voterâ€™s address.â€
State law lets people register or change their registration in person or by mail use their driverâ€™s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
The Web site requires both.
Parker couldn’t understand why the database accepted driverâ€™s license numbers but not state ID numbers.
It ticked me off pretty bad. I was like â€˜what do you mean driverâ€™s licenses only?
Matt McClellan is a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of Stateâ€™s office.
â€œWe wanted to air on the side of making sure this system was secure, as well as accessible,” McClellan says.
Thatâ€™s why we require the four pieces of information: the last name, the driverâ€™s license number, the last four of their Social Security, as well as the date of birth.
Voter databases have a history of being compromised. Two years ago a team from the University of Michigan hacked into a new online voting system in Washington, D.C. to prove it was vulnerable.
The new Ohio system may offer additional security, but itâ€™s probably illegal, says Ruth Colker, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in disability law.
Colker says the Americans with Disabilities Act bars governments from offering fewer or lesser services for the disabled.
â€œSo the question here would be â€˜why did they pick a way to vote that disparately excludes people with visual impairment? Did they have a really strong reason for having to do it in this way?’â€
In her legal opinion?
The easy answer is, well, they could have said to them â€˜give us either your driverâ€™s license number or the number on your state-issued ID.â€™
“They allowed them to use that state-issued ID to register to vote, to do all sorts of other things when they engage in in-person voting and identifying themselves. Why is it in this instance that alternative form of identification would not have been available to the state to meet their security interests?â€
So we went back to Matt McClellan with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s Office.
Reporter: â€œWhy will a state ID not work, but a driver’s license will?”
McClellen: â€œWell, under the law, when a person registers to vote, a driverâ€™s license is one of the requirements. We have that in the system.â€
A driverâ€™s license is not a requirement for anyone registering in person or by mail, just an option. Still, Marion Parker says for the sake of proving his identity, a state-issued picture ID should be just as good as a license.
The people who put it out, the people who I had to go to get this ID say thereâ€™s no difference except for that driving privilege. And I have to tend to believe them more than the people who are building a new Web site.
And, Parker says, when a person switches a state ID to a driverâ€™s license or vice versa, the number on their ID stays the same. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles confirms that is the practice.