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Ohio Senate approves photo ID requirement in sweeping elections bill

Poll workers wait for voters in Franklin County, Ohio.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Poll workers wait for voters in Franklin County, Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed a sweeping elections bill Tuesday to require a photo ID to vote, limits ballot drop boxes, and eliminate early in-person voting the Monday before Election Day.

The legislation, which began as a measure to prohibit political subdivisions from holding special August elections, is now a comprehensive bill that makes many changes to Ohio’s elections law.

Supporters say the additional provisions are in the interest of increased elections security.

Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) acknowledged that voter fraud is already exceedingly rare in Ohio, but said that shouldn’t stop them from making more improvements.

“Even one person, one person voting illegally in our state is too many. I consider this just one, first step, my personal journey to ensure that not even one illegal ballot is cast in this state. I have no doubt it can be done,” Gavarone said on the Senate floor.

The Ohio Secretary of State's Office discovered 27 cases of potential voter fraud in the 2020 General Election out of 5.9 million votes cast.

Voter rights groups and other community organizations oppose the bill. They said it creates more barriers to the ballot box and has the potential to disenfranchise voters, such as issues with obtaining a photo ID.

“Why is it we're making it so much more difficult to use the most precious thing that we in this country have, which is access to the ballot and that ability to vote,” said Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).

The bill, HB458, would limit local boards of elections to just one ballot drop box per county and that box must be placed at the board of elections.

The legislation also says a mail-in ballot must be received no later than four days after Election Day. That reduces the current 10-day window for mail-in ballots to arrive.

Some measures in the legislation did not draw as much criticism.

Lawmakers voted to change the deadline to request an absentee ballot from three days before Election Day to seven days. Backers said that’s a more reasonable time frame.

The bill also eliminated early in-person voting the Monday before Election Day to give elections officials more time to prepare for the final day of voting.

The bill now goes to the Ohio House for a concurrence vote. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) indicated that most the measures in the bill had the support of the Republican House caucus.

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