Bill Requiring Voters to Have a Photo ID Passes the Ohio House

After completing six hearings a Republican-backed bill to make changes in Ohio voting laws passed out of the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee along partisan lines 7-5 on Monday.

House Bill (HB) 294 sponsored by state Representatives Bill Seitz (R- Green Township) and Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) aims to require a photo ID for nearly all Ohio voters.

The bill was first introduced about a year and a half ago and it has gone through several changes. The updated version of HB 294 would require mail-in ballots to arrive by 7:30 pm on election day. Currently, ballots can arrive 10 days after the election and still be counted if they were postmarked the day before the election.

It would limit the number of drop boxes to one per county, with 24-hour surveillance, and would require voters to show photo ID.

“If their bill gets over here and we pass it, there will no longer be any need for people to use a utility statement, bank statement, etc. because we will be issuing a free photo ID to anybody that wants one, who doesn’t have a driver’s license,” Seitz said in a hearing last month.

The bill would also require voters to request an absentee ballot seven days before the election instead of the current three, however, would allow Ohioans to request a ballot online.

“The former bill said we had to make that deadline 10 days. Now we’re going to make it seven days. I think that still cuts it awful close,” Seitz said.

Republicans have shown overwhelming support for implementing a photo ID requirement for Ohio voters.

Republican state Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) also introduced similar legislation in Senate Bill (SB) 320. The bill currently is in the Local Governments and Elections Committee. The legislation would require Ohioans to show a photo ID when voting in person. Voters by mail would need to supply a driver’s license or state ID number or photocopy of their photo ID along with the last four digits of their social security number.

“I want to ensure we have the most accurate and trusted elections in the country, and requiring a photo ID to vote is a simple measure we can take to achieve that goal,” Gavarone said.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has endorsed the legislation.

“We already have some of the best elections anywhere in the country, but (this bill) would help us move forward and modernize,” LaRose said while visiting the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The Ohio Christian Alliance also vocalizes its support of voter photo ID requirements.

“The Ohio Christian Alliance supports voter photo ID requirement for Ohio. Ohioans are not fooled; they know that there are those who are trying to game the system of our election laws, and we want sound public policy to put an end to it,” Ohio Christian Alliance said.

Critics of the legislation such as the Ohio Education Association (OEA) say that the bill serves to erect more barriers and make it harder to vote.

“A strict photo ID requirement places an unnecessary burden on Ohioans who do not have a driver’s license. This can include college students, the poor, elderly, or disabled. Even with the state potentially providing free state ID cards as proposed in separate legislation, this is an unnecessary hurdle and state expense,” Scott DiMauro president of the OEA said.

The left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has outspokenly shared its disapproval of potential photo ID requirements, saying it is “wholly unnecessary and a way to keep people from voting.”

Democratic Representatives Rich Brown (D-Canal Winchester), Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) , and Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) voiced their frustration with the passage without an opportunity for testimony on Monday despite the numerous prior hearings which allowed testimony prior to Monday’s vote.

“No testimony – no voices from the people of Ohio – they have silenced us,” Miranda said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, across the country, voter ID laws are relatively new to elections. They vary by state — 18 states have photo-ID requirements on the books — and many were ratified after the turn of the century.

Seitz said he expects Senate Republicans will approve HB 294 before the end of the year.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Bill Seitz and Sharon Ray” by Ohio House of Representatives.

 

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