The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Voter Id Law Stricter Than Election Rules In Other States

By Haley BeMiller – The Columbus Dispatch

  • Under the new rules, Ohioans must present a photo ID when they vote in person
  • Bank statement, utility bill, paycheck or government documents will no longer be accepted
  • Questions raised if county veteran IDs will count

Ohio’s new election law that takes effect this spring sets some of the strictest voter ID rules in the country, a USA TODAY Network Ohio analysis found.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation earlier this month that would require voters to present photo ID at the polls and offer free state IDs to Ohioans 17 and older. The changes are part of a major overhaul to state election laws that the GOP-controlled Legislature passed in the final weeks of 2022.

Proponents say the new law will help boost confidence in the election process, while pointing to public polls that indicate voter ID laws are popular. A Gallup survey conducted last year found 79% of Americans favored photo ID, including 97% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats.

Critics contend the new law is a solution in search of a problem, given that voter fraud is rare in Ohio. One lawsuit has already been filed to challenge it. And advocates say photo ID laws wouldn’t poll well if people understood their consequences.

“This law would be one of the most onerous, if not the most onerous, voter ID laws in the country,” said Lauren Kunis, CEO and executive director of Vote Riders, a nonprofit that helps voters secure identification.

What does the new Ohio law say?

Under the new rules, Ohioans must present a photo ID when they vote in person, whether it’s on Election Day or during the early voting period. The documents that qualify are:

  • Unexpired Ohio driver’s license with current or former address
  • Unexpired state ID card with current or former address
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Military ID, specifically a U.S. military ID card, Ohio National Guard ID card or a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ID card.

“It’s really a commonsense way to improve the security of our elections,” said state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, who first proposed the voter ID changes.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose has referred 630 cases of potential fraud to local prosecutors since he took office in 2019, a tally that spans multiple elections. Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said the state doesn’t have a problem with voter impersonation − the specific type of fraud photo ID requirements aim to prevent.

The new law also changes the requirements for mail-in voting, although it doesn’t exclusively require photo ID for that process. To vote by mail, you’ll need to provide one of the following:

  • Ohio driver’s license or ID number
  • Last four digits of your social security number
  • Photocopy of a qualifying photo ID

Current law prohibits voters from using a passport, but they could use a bank statement, utility bill, paycheck or government document to identify themselves in lieu of a photo ID. Those documents will no longer be accepted for in-person or mail-in voting.

Voter ID rules in other states

Eight states have what the National Conference of State Legislatures defines as strict photo ID laws: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Ohio was previously considered a strict non-photo ID state because of its requirement that voters cast provisional ballots if they don’t have proper identification.

But even the stricter states offer more leeway than Ohio’s new law. Some permit photo identification from another state agency, such as the Tennessee Department of Safety. Tennessee also lets voters present a conceal carry gun permit with a photo, while Mississippi voters can use their firearms license.

In Arkansas, the ID can be expired if the election is within four years of the expiration date.

Several of these states permit student ID in some form, usually if the university is state-run. Ohio doesn’t currently allow student IDs at the ballot box, but students can bring other documents if they don’t have an in-state driver’s license or ID.

“That isn’t the way to keep young people in Ohio, and that isn’t a way to encourage a young generation to get in politics,” said Katie Seewer, political director of the Ohio State University College Democrats.

Gavarone said lawmakers wanted to ensure voters are showing government-issued IDs, but even some of those appear to be excluded. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor said the bill’s military ID language will prevent veterans from using their free, county-issued veteran ID cards to vote.

“It’s bad enough that in the middle of the night, the Ohio legislature decided to target our right to vote,” O’Connor said. “But specifically invalidating the free state-issued ID our office provides to retired service members is unacceptable.”

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

Read the original story here.