Shortly after Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008, Republicans began screaming they wanted to “take their country back” and there were different opinions on exactly what era they wanted to return. If one listened to the preponderance of so-called ‘patriot’ groups sporting tricornes adorned with teabags, it seemed that colonial America was their cherished era. For the family values and evangelical fanatic crowd, the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ era appeared to be the ‘golden age’ they lusted to return to. However, for the anti-democracy crowd funded by the Koch brothers and supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, it was the Jim Crow era of voter suppression to reserve voting rights for white Christian landowners.
It has been apparent to any American that follows politics that Republicans just cannot stand the democratic process. Since 2008 every Republican state has attempted to enact harsh voter ID laws, used vote suppression tactics, and tried every tactic to prevent Americans from voting except enacting literacy tests and charging Americans to cast a vote. Now it appears that Ohio Republicans are on the verge of enacting an voter ID law that requires Ohio residents to pay a fee in order to cast a ballot.
Last week in the Ohio House of Representatives, 24 Republican members co-sponsored legislation requiring Ohio residents to pay a poll tax to cast a ballot. The idea of having to pay a fee to cast a ballot is patently unconstitutional according to the 24th Amendment, but these are Republicans and they have not shown any interest in adhering to, or recognizing, the validity of the U.S. Constitution since Americans elected an African American man as President.
Although the ‘fee’ to vote is not called a ‘poll tax,’ it is a requirement for voters to pay a fee to obtain a valid ID card necessary to vote in Ohio; it is certainly a poll tax regardless the ‘fee‘ for the voter card. As mentioned above, Republicans across the country have followed ALEC templates closely and enacted absurd ‘voter ID’ laws specifically to prevent minorities, students, and the elderly from exercising their right to vote. The proposed Ohio legislation ‘permits’ voters who lack Republican-approved identification to vote, but only if they pay $8.50 for an official GOP-sanctioned voter ID card issued by the state’s Republican secretary of state. There is a very special provision in the voter ID bill that exempts some prospective voters, but their income dare not “exceed one hundred per cent of the federal poverty guidelines,” or less than $11,770 a year in annual income as of 2015; every other prospective voter will pay to vote.
Ohio Republicans, like Republicans nationwide, claim that voter ID cards are crucial to stop the rampant voter fraud they assert is polluting the electoral process and preventing Republicans from winning every office in every election in every state despite the fact that voter fraud is virtually, and in most cases, literally non-existent, even in Ohio. Nationwide, the number of verifiably documented cases of voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast in every general, state, midterm, and municipal election was 31; certainly not anything remotely related to ‘rampant’ voter fraud.
In fact, in a recent report released by anti-democracy advocate Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State John Husted, the number of fraudulent votes cast in the 2012 general election was a whopping 0.002397 percent of all votes cast. Obviously, less than three one-thousandths of one percent was more than enough fraud to start charging voters a fee to vote even though so-called ‘fraud’ does not necessarily mean cheating. Husted’s report was virtually echoed by another Republican Secretary of State’s report when Iowa’s Matt Schultz discovered that there were precisely zero cases of voter fraud in 2012 that would have been thwarted by another ALEC voter ID law being pushed in Iowa.
It is little wonder America lags 37 democratic nations in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development in voter turnout save Japan, Chile, and Switzerland according to a new Pew survey. There may be some voter apathy in America, but the recent numbers reflect the suppression efforts on turnout after Republicans went on a crusade to block the vote of any American unless they are white Christian Republicans. Voter suppression efforts primarily target the elderly, the poor, and out-of-state students that likely lack ‘official’ state-issued identification such as drivers’ licenses.
The 24th Amendment to the Constitution specifically “prohibits Congress and the States from imposing a ‘poll tax’ or fee as a condition to vote.” The Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that “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.” According to that ruling, it does not matter how much money a person is worth, if they are charged one red cent to vote it is considered an unconstitutional poll tax.
The High Court reiterated its opinion in Harper in its 2008 opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board allowing Indiana’s voter ID law by strongly stating that any voter ID law coupled with a mandatory fee is unconstitutional. The Court opinion said that, “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, if the State required voters to pay a tax or a fee to obtain a new photo identification.”
Obviously Republicans are not dissuaded by either the Constitution or Supreme Court rulings and that is especially the case in Ohio Republicans’ latest attempt to suppress the vote by charging a fee to participate in the democratic process. Republicans have made no secret that they oppose all Americans’ having the right to vote including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said he actually considers it “healthy if less people participated in the political process.”
One way to make the political process even ‘healthier’ for anti-democracy Ohio Republicans is to impose an unconstitutional poll tax. All that is left is for Ohio Republicans to pass legislation requiring a literacy test for the elderly, minorities, and the poor resembling a college exit exam. The literacy test for white religious conservatives will be the ability to spell god or gun to guarantee that Ohio Republicans win every election.