New Ohio law enacts strict voting regulations in the state

Addison Foreman, Reporter

A law requiring photo identification in order to vote passed in Ohio Jan. 6, tightening restrictions on voting in the state.

House Bill 458 was signed by Governor Mike DeWine, making Ohio one of the strictest states in the country in terms of voting regulations. Ohio joins just seven other states that strictly require photo identification in order to vote.

The previous Ohio voting law required only a voter’s name and address to be on a form of identification when voting at the polls.

Isobel Day, vice chair of governmental affairs for Undergraduate Student Government, expressed very strong opinions on the new voting regulations.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was voter disenfranchisement,” Day said.

Voter disenfranchisement is defined as a practice that has the ability to prevent a person from voting.

“It has historically disenfranchised Black minority voters, older voters, voters with disabilities,” Day said about strict photo ID laws. “Anything that disenfranchises a specific minority community I don’t think can have a positive effect at all.”

Associate professor at the School of Peace and Conflict Studies Ashley Nickels provided context on the impact of strict voting regulations.

“I understand people’s motivation to want to ensure that we hold true to the one person one vote,” Nickels said. “The problem is that the voter ID law is problematic in the sense that not everyone has a voter ID. Not everyone has access to get a voter ID and those access issues are disproportionately impacting older people, people with fewer resources.”

Those in favor of the photo ID requirement believe it will help keep election integrity and prevent voter impersonation. Nickels disagreed and said Ohio does not have a problem of voter fraud.

“I am fortunate to have studied alongside individuals like Lorraine Minnite who’s done research on voter disenfranchisement and voter fraud,” she said. “Her analyses show that there’s very little voter fraud; that that’s somewhat of a straw-man argument.”

Not having access to a photo ID could be an issue for some voters.

“Eleven percent of voters can’t vote because they don’t have access to a photo ID. And that 11% can sway an election,” Day said.

The bill also shortens the window of time for mail-in ballots. Absentee ballots must arrive within four days after election day, as opposed to 10 days under the previous law. This is supposed to give poll workers more time to count votes that have been mailed.

College students have historically had a more difficult time voting than other citizens in the U.S.

For many students, the address on their driver’s license does not match their current address if they are living on campus, which can present several issues when voting. Day said that if students are unaware of options like absentee voting, there is a chance they may not vote at all.

Nickels recommended getting educated on the new law before election day.

“My go-to resource is the League of Women Voters,” Nickels. “The Ohio chapter has information on Ohio, the local chapters have information on county and city level and township level. I think that they’re a great resource at Kent State.”

Day echoed her advice and said Undergraduate Student Government will help provide resources on campus.

“Make sure you’re educated on House Bill 458, and if you have any questions at all, Undergraduate Student Government is here to answer them,” Day said. “We just want people to know that there is always a way forward to vote. It might be a little more complicated now, but that’s not going to stop us from being a very democratically involved campus.”

Addison Foreman is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].