Ohio Republicans Sneak Voter ID Requirements into Special Election Bill

The bill was criticized by some legislators as being too restrictive, especially to minorities, Ohioans in poverty, and the elderly.

click to enlarge Voter ID requirements pass in Ohio state senate. - Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels
Voter ID requirements pass in Ohio state senate.

A bill originally authored to get rid of certain election days has been expanded to require photo IDs for in-person voting and codifying a limit on ballot drop boxes.

House Bill 458 passed the Ohio Senate on Tuesday on a 24-6 vote after additions were added by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

The chair of that committee, state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, was happy to bring along parts of Senate Bill 320, which she sponsored, but never came up for passage.

“No longer will showing a random bank statement or utility bill be good enough to cast a ballot in our state,” Gavarone said on the Senate floor.

Additions to the bill included requiring a valid photo ID when a person votes in person on the day of an election, and those voting absentee in person.

The bill now heads back to the Ohio House for concurrence on the changes. The House is set to meet for the last session of the week, perhaps the last session of the year, on Wednesday afternoon.

Those who can’t show a photo ID in person will be required to cast a provisional ballot and return to the local board of elections four days after the election, a change from the previous seven days voters had to “cure” their ballot.

Before the Ohio Senate vote, state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, called the bill “a huge step in securing the election integrity” of voters, and did not see the need for a photo ID as a barrier to access.

“A photo ID is not a burdensome requirement,” Antani said.

The absentee voting period is shortened under the bill as well, with the deadline changing from three days before an election to a week before.

Curbside voting will be removed as an option for many voters, according to the bill, unless the voter has a disability rendering them “physically unable to enter a polling place.”

The boards of elections will now have shortened deadlines as well, specifically when it comes to counting absentee and provisional ballots. Under the bill, they will be required to start counting late-arriving and “cured” absentee and provisional ballots five days after the election, rather than the current timeline, in which they start the count 11 days after.

Drop boxes are limited to one per board of elections site, a point of controversy for voting rights advocates over the years.

The original bill, the language for which stayed in the version passed by the Senate, eliminates August special elections, except when a school district in fiscal emergency needs one.

The bill was criticized by some legislators as being too restrictive, especially to minorities, Ohioans in poverty, and the elderly.

“I submit that this will create a situation where a lot more people will not be able to vote,” said state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Avondale.

State Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, expressed shame in the bill, and said the legislature should be looking to improve integrity in elections rather than hindering the ability to vote.

“We should be looking at ways in which we can make the election secure, make it so that more people have confidence in how they can vote,” Hicks-Hudson said. “And some of the changes that are being made … the unintended consequences, or maybe their intended consequences, is to make it harder.”

This story was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.

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