COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Republican lawmakers passed a major elections reform bill after midnight on Thursday morning, mandating a photo ID requirement for voting and eliminating some early voting opportunities.
It the nearly 17 hours of back-and-forth between the House and the Senate, lawmakers voted 55-32 to approve H.B. 458.
If signed by the governor, Ohioans would only be able to cast ballots if they have state identification cards issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Currently, voters can show military IDs, utility bills, bank statements or other documentation.
This provision would affect Clevelander Barbara Friedman Yaksic's family. Yaksic is a retired attorney and helps register people to vote. Her brother Joel had a stroke nearly two decades ago, and while he lives in a nursing home she has been his legal guardian.
"To require seniors who are in nursing homes to have to get some sort of photo I.D… I'm very concerned of the impact that these requirements could have on him," she said, adding, "My brother and people like him have the right to vote."
State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Huron) told News 5 in a previous interview that requiring a state ID is meant to keep Ohio elections as safe as possible.
"We just want to make sure we're tightening things up and really looking at our elections to make sure that they are secure," Gavarone said.
She had originally introduced one aspect of H.B. 458 in S.B. 320. A provision in the bill states that if someone is at least 17 years old and has all their documentation in order to get an ID, they can receive it free of charge. However, critics say it wouldn't actually be free, considering someone would need to get all the underlying documents.
The bill also ends the vast majority of special elections in August and eliminates in-person voting the day before election day. It also creates a tighter deadline for applying to get an absentee ballot, and it reduces the grace period if mail arrives late despite being postmarked before election day. It would also limit the amount of secure ballot drop boxes.
Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio said this doesn’t make sense, since both Republicans and Democrats agree that Ohio is the “gold standard” on election security. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state, a fact that state officials have repeatedly touted.
Voter fraud is incredibly rare in Ohio. Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent 75 allegations of fraud during the 2020 election to law enforcement, which is just .001%. When News 5 asked his team how many of these claims have been substantiated, they said they did not know.
"I think this is a solution looking for a problem," Miller said. "These changes will disenfranchise voters of all political stripes across the state of Ohio."
Miller said this bill would disproportionately impact marginalized groups, such as college students who move apartments each school year, elderly people who no longer drive, those who are transient that don't have one set residence, active duty military or troops overseas and people with disabilities.
"The audits last election show Ohio did well, but we need to make sure we're continually looking at it and making it as secure as possible because it's just so vitally important," Gavorone said. "We just want to make sure we're tightening things up and really looking at our elections to make sure that they are secure."
Friedman Yaksic isn't buying it.
"I'm a big believer in, 'Let's look at the facts,' not the political motives for making it more difficult to vote," she said.
The bill heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk, but he has not said if he will sign it.
We move to the Ohio House.— Morgan Trau (@MorganTrau) December 15, 2022
HB 458 is an election and voting bill. It would require voter photo ID & cut the amount of early in-person voting. This caused lots of debate on the floor.
It passed 55 to 32. 11 didn't vote. It heads to the governor now.@WEWS @OhioCapJournal @WCPO pic.twitter.com/uGu1oY2yay