VOICES: Secretary of State should notify voters about ID law changes

For as long as most of us have been old enough to vote, documents such as utility bills, bank statements, paychecks and a number of other documents were acceptable identification for in- person voting in Ohio. All that changed on January 6 of this year when Governor DeWine signed HB458. This law radically alters the types of identification voters must present. Now, only 4 types of unexpired photo IDs can be used for in-person voting: an Ohio driver’s license/interim license, an Ohio-issued state identification card, a U.S. or state military ID, or a U.S. passport. Those who choose to vote by mail have the option of using the last 4 digits of their social security number as identification.

The problem is that many voters aren’t aware of these changes. In the August election, 124 provisional ballots were rejected in Butler County due to lack of a valid ID. A provisional ballot is used when a voter goes to a polling location but something doesn’t line up – in this case, the voter did not have a valid ID. The voter can cast a provisional ballot, but within 4 days must return to the Board of Elections with a valid ID. If the voter can’t do so, their provisional ballot is rejected. In the August election, 124 Butler County voters had their ballot rejected because they did not know about these changes. This number doesn’t include the number of voters who walked away from their polling location without casting a provisional ballot, because they knew they couldn’t get to both the BMV and the Board of Elections in the next 4 days.

In the November 2022 election, only 9 provisional ballots were rejected due to lack of a valid ID, but the August 2023 election saw more than 10x the number of provisional ballots rejected after voters were unable to rectify the ID problem at the Board of Elections. Why should voters have to find out about these changes when they show up to vote?

The League of Women Voters of Oxford has been communicating these new voter ID changes to the public in every venue we can: township trustee meetings, city council meetings, community newsletters, social media, and at voter registration tables. But our efforts aren’t enough – the Secretary of State has the name and address of every registered voter in Ohio. Ohio voters need to be informed that the rules for voting have changed. We have asked the Secretary of State to send notice to every registered voter in Ohio, informing them of the new voter ID laws. To do less is a disservice to voters.

Jenny Fisher is the co-president of the League of Women Voters of Oxford.

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