Ohio’s new voting law that requires photo ID for in-person voting also added a label on driver’s licenses and ID cards indicating a person’s citizenship status.
Voter rights advocates call this provision unneeded and say it could increase cases of violence against noncitizens in Ohio.
“We worry this designation could needlessly subject legal immigrants who are just trying to live their lives to intimidation, harassment and even violence,” said Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
The new Ohio voting law (HB 458) signed in January by the governor took effect earlier this month. It requires voters to prove their identity with photo identification when casting a ballot in-person, whether on Election Day or while voting early. Acceptable photo ID includes unexpired driver’s licenses, state ID cards, military ID and U.S. passports.
The new law also created a citizenship indicator for noncitizens who seek driver’s licenses or Ohio ID cards.
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Lindsey Bohrer said the BMVs across the state began issuing the new ID cards on April 7, which feature the citizenship notation for documented immigrants.
The word “noncitizen” is printed on the back of new Ohio ID cards and driver’s licenses for immigrants.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine press secretary Daniel Tierney noted voter fraud cases are rare. According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, total possible statewide voter fraud in the 2020 general election was roughly 0.0005%.
But Tierney said the “overwhelming majority” of such cases involve non-citizens.
“These cases share a pattern where the non-citizen was often solicited to register to vote by a third-party voter registration program,” Tierney said. “Circumstances would then cascade when the application proceeds without catching that the applicant was a non-citizen, and the individual would eventually be sent a notice of their neighborhood polling place and be encouraged to cast a vote.”
Tierney said it is “not unreasonable” to see how the provision might have been drafted to reduce similar scenarios.
Marozzi said IDs are used to complete daily tasks, and flagging the status of documented noncitizens who are living in the country to work and study could create the potential of danger.
Dayton NAACP second vice-president and NAACP Ohio Conference president Tom Roberts voiced concern over the law change, saying it created “unnecessary havoc” over the issue of voter fraud.
“It is creating an unnecessary scare,” Roberts said. “That’s so rare, and it’s not worth changing a law that affects millions of Ohioans.”
“For us to have to jump through all these hoops… it should be easy for us to vote,” Roberts said. “To create unnecessary obstacles… takes away from the interest of voting.”
To acquire an ID or license, noncitizens are required to provide proof of their legal presence in the U.S. This is typically proven by green cards, work and student visas. Immigrants who lack proof of legal residency cannot obtain an Ohio ID or driver’s license.
An Ohioan who attains U.S. citizenship can come to a BMV location and have the “noncitizen” notation removed, free of charge to the cardholder, according to Bohrer.
As of Friday, roughly 10,240 free ID cards have been issued, reprinted for or renewed by Ohioans at their BMV locations, Bohrer said.
Free Ohio ID cards: how many have been requested locally?
Ohio HB 458 came into effect on April 7. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles provided a breakdown of how many residents in our region requested a free ID for first issuance, replacement of renewal this month, by area county.
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