A package of changes is coming to Ohio’s election process, limiting permissible forms of identification, shortening deadlines to apply for absentee voting ballots, eliminating August special elections and more.
Effective Friday, April 7, H.B. 458 states that the only acceptable forms of identification for elections will be an unexpired Ohio driver’s license, state ID card, interim identification form, U.S. passport or passport card, or military ID card with name and photo. Bank statements, utility bills, paychecks and Veteran ID cards will no longer be permissible.
The new voting law will also constrain the process to vote by mail. Absentee ballots will have to be requested a full week before Election day at the latest and returned by mail to arrive at the board of elections by the fourth day after Election day, instead of what was previously the 10th day. Some counties will also be limited to one drop-box location for absentee ballots, which may only be used during business hours for early voting.
Gone, too, are the days of early voting in-person the Monday before Election Day and August special elections designed to fill vacant seats at various government levels prior to general elections.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed H.B. 458 earlier this year, approving these changes and many more as a way to counteract voter fraud and ensure a safer, more fair election process. However, H.B 458 brings forth some of the strictest voter ID rules in the country.
The bill caused controversy right away, with concerns that it would negatively affect college students, elderly folk who no longer drive, people with disabilities, veterans, transgender individuals and Black voters.
After the bill was signed into law, Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a statement in light of controversy:
“Ohioans are clearly supportive of strict photo ID for voting and we have found a common-sense way to make it happen that ensures voters are not disenfranchised,” LaRose said. “No piece of legislation is a silver-bullet solution, but we are once again showing Ohioans that we take their concerns seriously and are dedicated to continuously improving our elections.”
However, opponents of the bill believe it will hinder Ohioans more than help. In fact, three Ohio organizations have filed a lawsuit against the state in opposition of H.B 458, claiming it unconstitutional.
“There is no instance of voter impersonation, which is the only form of voter fraud that a photo ID will potentially solve,” said Colin Marozzi, deputy policy director at ACLU Ohio. “This is a large step back, and it’s disheartening for a lot of folks.”
In light of these changes, voters should remember to confirm their voter registration and decide between in-person or absentee ballot voting ahead of time. It may take two to five days for an absentee ballot to reach the local board of elections by mail. Lastly, renew any necessary expired state-issued photo IDs before the May primary and future elections.