CLEVELAND — Ohio voters can now expect stricter voter ID requirements the next time they head to the polls. It's a change some residents say will do more harm than good.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 458 into law, requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID when voting in person. Previously, voters had the option to show an alternate form of ID, like a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck indicating their current address.
Supporters of this change, including Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said it’ll help prevent voter fraud.
In a statement to Spectrum News, LaRose said:
“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. 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.”
Opponents of the new voting law, however, say the change will make it harder for some Ohioans to vote.
“I already do face discrimination, like vague glances,” said Mars Harper Jenkins, a Cleveland-area resident, talking about experiences at polling locations she’s faced as a transgender woman.
Jenkins said she fears the new Ohio voting law will make trans individuals think twice about showing up to vote in person.
“It can deter trans people from even showing up because they’ll just feel uncomfortable,” she said. “You go in and have to out your identity immediately.”
Being put in that position is something Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director at ACLU Ohio, said shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
“There is no instance of voter impersonation, which is the only form of voter fraud that a photo ID will potentially solve,” said Marozzi. “This is a large step back, and it’s disheartening for a lot of folks.”
Marozzi said the change to the voter ID rules in Ohio will hurt not just transgender individuals, but residents without a proper photo ID as well.
A report last year by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland indicates that a million Ohioans have suspended licenses, due to debts from things like lack of insurance, unpaid fines and court costs.
LaRose has said the state BMV will issue free state ID cards to those who request them. But, Marozzi said that still can take a bit of time to complete.
“It really is going to be a vast number of Ohioans who are going to have to jump through the hoops,” he said. “These people will now have to vote by mail, whether they want to or not, whether they trust the mail service or not.”
Regardless of the obstacles faced, Jenkins said she’ll be at the polls on Election Day, ready to make her voice heard.
“At the end of the day, the only way we can activate change is by standing up for ourselves,” she said.
The new voter ID law also includes the following changes:
- Eliminating early voting on the Monday before Election Day to allow county boards of elections adequate time to prepare for Tuesday elections. The bill provides discretion to the Secretary of State to reallocate those six hours of early in-person absent voting previously available by adding hours on Monday through Friday of the preceding week;
- Eliminating August special elections — a costly, low-turnout, and unnecessary election for our county boards to administer — unless it involves a political subdivision or school district that is in a state of fiscal emergency;
- Shortening the deadline to apply to cast absent voters’ ballots by mail from noon on the third day before Election Day to the close of business on the seventh day before Election Day to ensure adequate time for applications to be processed and that voters do not unintentionally disenfranchise themselves by procrastinating too close to Election Day.