Ohio’s new voter photo ID law takes effect next week

BY JAKE ZUCKERMAN, [email protected] — MARCH 29, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new state law takes effect next week requiring Ohioans to present a state-issued photo ID to vote, whether early or on Election Day.

The effective date next week means the new law will apply to voters participating in local and county elections taking place this year. Its fuller test, however, will occur next year in presidential, U.S. Senate and statewide races.

In previous elections, Ohioans could prove their identity with alternate forms of identification like a utility bill or bank statement with their address on it. But come April 7, they’ll need state-issued identification from Ohio or a valid U.S. passport. The law waives fees for those seeking a state identification for the first time.

The law also shortens the window within which voters must apply for an absentee ballot to vote from seven days to three days before Election Day, and it similarly shortens the grace period for counting late arriving ballots from 10 days after Election Day to four days.

The new law also prohibits county boards of election from offering more than one drop box for fielding absentee ballots and eliminates early voting the day before Election Day.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the new law, passed solely with Republican support, early this year. Most Republicans who supported the bill asserted that Ohio elections already are secure but justified the changes as a means of ensuring “election integrity.”

Democrats described the legislation as unnecessarily restrictive, claiming it erects new barriers to voting.

The law applies whether voters cast ballots in person on Election Day or during Ohio’s early voting period. Early voting begins April 4 for the 2023 primary election. Voters requesting or returning ballots by mail must provide an Ohio driver’s license or ID number, the last four digits of their Social Security Number or a copy of their photo ID.

On Wednesday, the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan voter advocacy organization that opposed the bill, hosted a series of speakers at a press conference raising awareness about the new voting requirements.

They said the law will add untenable burdens to poor Ohioans, like forcing them to take more time off work, assuming they can afford to, to get to BMV and other state office locations that often fall out of reach of public transit. Other speakers emphasized looming difficulties for students, the elderly and other politically marginalized demographic groups.

“It’s getting harder and more confusing to cast a ballot in America today as these ID laws pass like wildfire in statehouses across the country,” said Nick Ramos, an attorney and advocate with VoteRiders, which helps voters comply with stiffening state laws.

Jake Zuckerman covers state politics and policy. Read more of his work here.

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