Ohio’s strict new voting rules could impact thousands of Ohioans in upcoming elections. Signed into law in January, the new rules that restrict and change the way Ohioans can vote take effect today, Apr 4, 2023. Proponents of the law claim they were necessary to address concerns about election integrity. Critics of the law believe the new rules address nonexistent problems and will result in voter disenfranchisement.
The new voting rules focus mostly on accepted forms of identification and mail-in ballots. In addition, changes were made to requirements for accepting provisional ballots, early voting, and voter registration. Procedural requirements for Boards of Elections were also included in the restrictions.
Strict ID Requirements
Many have called the voter ID requirements enacted the strictest in the nation. As of today, voters will be required to show a valid, non-expired, photo ID to vote. This includes an Ohio Driver’s license, State ID, military ID, or US passport only. In the past voters could use a current utility bill, bank statement, government check; paycheck, other government document, and concealed carry permits.
Those will no longer be accepted.
ID requirements have also changed for early in person voting. Prior to the changes, voters could use the last four digits of their social security number or a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck. The new rules require voters to use the same valid, non-expired ID options as election day voting. Other changes to early in-person voting include the removal of in person voting the Monday prior to election day.
Mail-In Voting Windows Closing
Mail-in voting will also see new restrictions. The timeline for requesting a mail-in ballot has been reduced from 3 days prior to 7 days prior to the election. Voters are required to request the ballot using the new application form prescribed by the Secretary of State.
The deadline for absentee ballots to arrive at a board of elections office will now be the fourth day after Election Day. This is a 6 day reduction from the previous 10 day deadline. Absentee ballots that arrive after the polls close must be postmarked by the day before Election Day.
Proponents Tout Election Security
Governor Mike Dewine said the new restrictions were needed to combat concerns about voter fraud. “Election integrity is a significant concern to Americans on both sides of the aisle across the country,” DeWine claimed in a statement.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s Press Secretary Rob Nichols wrote in an email responding to Ohio Capitol Journal when asked the extent of SOS’s work on election reform. “Overall, the legislature approved some much-needed reforms that will benefit both voters and elections officials, while continuing to make Ohio one of the most honest and accessible voting states in the nation.”
Critics Warn Against Disenfranchisement
However, critics are quick to point out that the election fraud concerns were caused by Republican politician’s false claims, pushed by former President Trump and debunked at every level. In fact, Ohio’s 2020 election had a near perfect record of 0.0005% possible fraud cases of the total votes cast. Voting rights advocates claim that Ohio legislatures used claims fabricated by their own party to justify new restrictions that could disenfranchise thousands of Ohio voters, including active military service members, people of color, and poor citizens.
“I can tell you everyone I’ve talked to is livid and upset,” said Former state Rep. Connie Pillich, an Air Force veteran who leads the Ohio Democratic Party’s outreach to veterans and military families. “These guys and gals stationed overseas, living in the sandbox or wherever they are, doing their jobs, putting themselves in harm’s way, you’re making it harder for them to participate.”
Joe Mallory, President of the Cincinnati NAACP, testified in opposition to the new rules as well. He wrote that, “It creates unnecessary barriers to vote,” and that the NAACP opposes the legislation.
“Black and brown communities have higher numbers of those communities who don’t have ID,” said Camille Wimbish, the election administration director at Ohio Voice, a civic engagement advocacy group. “This is gonna impact Black and brown voters, students, rural voters, military voters, seniors.
Regardless of the potential impacts and concerns, new Ohio voter rules are active as of today, April 4th. It will be important to review these new requirements in order to prepare to vote in the upcoming May 2 Primary/Special Election and beyond.