COLUMBUS, Ohio — A proposed law would require Ohio voters to show photo identification at the polls, starting up the argument again of voter security versus voter accessibility.
Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Huron), would only allow Ohioans to cast ballots if they have state identification cards issued by the Bureaus of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Currently, voters can show military IDs, utility bills, bank statements or others.
"Ohio's a really important state and voters need to be confident that their vote is being counted and counted correctly," Gavarone said. "We want to make sure Ohio's the gold standard when it comes to election integrity and that we're doing things the right way."
Critics of the bill, like Collin Marozzi with the ACLU of Ohio and Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, say this would lead to voter suppression.
"It does seem to be another step in this very troubling trend we've seen across the country where legislatures are are moving to make it more difficult to vote in a number of different ways," Marozzi said.
This bill is also not necessary, Miller added.
"This is a solution searching for a problem," she said. "Both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state over the last several decades have attested that voter fraud is exceedingly rare and this would only raise barriers to voting."
Most people vote with their license already, so it isn't a huge change, Gavarone said. It gives some skeptical of the elections peace of mind, she added.
To be very clear, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio or the United States. In fact, state data reports 0.0005% of the nearly 6 million votes in the 2020 election were fraudulent — and it was caught.
There are nearly 8 million registered voters in Ohio, according to the Secretary of State's data. Of that, about 875,000 are in Cuyahoga County. Half of 1% used non-traditional forms of ID, like utility bills, to vote in the previous election, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
"I know people think that, 'well, a lot of people in Ohio have these IDs; well, it doesn't really affect me," Marozzi said. "But the requirement that it has to have your current address is going to affect way more people in Ohio than what somebody would typically think."
This bill would also require that the identification has the exact address you live at. Marozzi and Miller say 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.
"Honestly, I think that's kind of insulting," the senator said, responding to critics. "I think most people do have an ID, and if you don't have one, we're going to give one to you."
A provision in the bill states that if you are at least 17 years old and have all your documentation in order to get an ID, you can receive it free of charge.
"If anything, I think people will be encouraged to get an ID and then they also have the confidence in knowing that their vote is being counted, as well correctly," she added.
The critics say that the ID being free isn't all the legislator is making it out to be.
"I think if you're going to mandate a photo ID, it's the obligation of the state to provide one — that's the bare minimum, that is the lowest bar that they could meet," Marozzi said. "In terms of practicality, again, it's just going to add more steps. You have this option to get the free ID, but you still have to go and produce all the underlying documentation that goes into getting this new ID.
"The state is still paying for it, which means you and me and everybody listening to this [interview] is still paying for them. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and this bill doesn't change that."
Plus, this could become a very long, drawn out voting process, Miller added.
"What this does is harm a whole bunch of voters create a whole bunch of hoops for voters to jump through that likely will increase provisional ballots, therefore increase lines on election days and create more work for poll workers," she said.
Gavarone isn't convinced.
"You can go into a vote with like a bill, a utility bill — it doesn't have your picture on it, and you can go in and use that as ID to vote," she said. "So this says you're going to have a photo ID so people can match you up made sure that you are the person you say you are. We're making it harder to to cheat."
She doesn't want anyone questioning the results, and it is a way to safeguard, she said.
"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," she added. "We just want to make sure we're tightening things up and really looking at at at our elections to make sure that they are secure."
The bill was just introduced, but depending on how quickly it gets heard and advances through the General Assembly, it is possible it could be passed and take effect before the November election.
The Secretary of State's team said they are "currently looking at the bill to better understand its implications."
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