COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Friday that alters Ohio electoral processes and procedures — and from a changed early voting schedule to mandated photo ID at the polls, voters may notice differences the next time they cast a ballot.
House Bill 458, which passed both Ohio General Assembly chambers along party lines in December and drew the ire of a number of civil rights and civic engagement organizations, is now law with DeWine’s signature.
DeWine said in a news release Friday the Ohio General Assembly did not include what he saw as the “more restrictive proposals” in the final bill he signed.
“I believe with the enactment of the new election integrity provisions in House Bill 458, this matter should be settled,” DeWine said.
The Ohio Democratic Party called it “one of the worst anti-voter bills in the country” in a Friday statement. Even before it was signed, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted in December that the legislation would “undercut the fundamental right to vote.”
Here is how elections will change, starting with the May primary.
Earlier deadlines for absentee applications, ballots
Ohioans looking to vote by mail via absentee ballot will now have to file to do so earlier in the election season. Applications to vote absentee are due a week before Election Day, as opposed to three days before, which was prior law.
The legislation also mandates that mail-in ballots arrive at county boards of elections within four days after Election Day; the earlier threshold was 10 days.
Photo ID to cast a ballot
Most notably, Ohio now mandates photo identification at the polls.
Previously, non-photo IDs were permitted as proof of identity, which only became a voting requirement in 2006. But utility bills, bank statements, or government checks will not be valid when voting in-person or via absentee anymore.
The law also adds a previously ineligible but now-accepted form of ID: passports. The other eligible forms include an Ohio Driver’s License or ID card with a current or former address or a military ID.
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, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
To avert what would be considered a poll tax, or the unconstitutional requirement that citizens pay to vote in an election, the new law authorizes the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to issue a free state ID card to anyone who applies for one. This could result in some revenue loss for the BMV, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
One dropbox per county
In 2020, the pandemic and a resulting appeals court ruling enabled county boards of elections to place one or more ballot drop boxes throughout their county. The back-and-forth between Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the courts over directives about the drop boxes in 2020 muddied the waters when it came to rules surrounding their use.
Boards are now limited by law to one ballot drop box per county, located at their offices, that can accept ballots only during regular business hours and must be video surveilled.
Early voting schedule change
The state will no longer offer early voting hours on the Monday directly before Election Day. Those — usually six — hours won’t be lost, but will be reallocated by LaRose throughout the early voting schedule for the week before.
Quicker ballot cure turnaround
Ohioans who have to vote provisionally — often done when some element of their eligibility is in question — aren’t immediately off the hook after leaving the polls.
The state requires provisional voters to return to their county board of elections to validate or “cure” their ballot, particularly with proper identification if they had to cast a provisional ballot because they did not have the right ID with them.
The new law shortens the curing period, offering provisional voters four days post-Election Day. Former law gave them a week.
Before it was drastically amended and protracted by more than 100 pages, what DeWine signed Friday originally just eliminated the bulk of August elections. It still does that. After Ohio held a second primary in August 2022, only hyperlocal special elections for political subdivisions or school districts “under a fiscal emergency” will be allowed starting August 2023.