Over the next several weeks, Ohioans will be heading to the polls for early voting ahead of the special and primary elections in May. Unfortunately, because of a new law that took effect on April 4, hundreds of thousands of voters from across the state now risk facing confusion and intimidation when they try to vote, or potentially being unable to vote at all.
Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a new strict voter ID law, which requires Ohio voters to show a state-issued photo ID when they vote in person. Previously, Ohioans had the option to show forms of ID without a photo, such as a bank statement or utility bill.
This new, restrictive voter ID law is part of a national trend: Since the 2020 elections, 16 states have enacted new ID laws or added restrictions to their current ID laws. In total, 36 states have a law that requires or requests voters show some form of ID before they cast their ballots.
Even among these increasingly harsh laws, Ohio’s new requirements are particularly onerous. Some other states with voter ID laws allow a student ID, out-of-state ID, tribal ID, or an expired driver’s license or state ID. In contrast, the only valid options in Ohio are non-expired IDs issued by the state of Ohio, a current US passport, or a military ID.
While having an ID like this may seem like a basic fact of life for some, that’s not the case for many others. An estimated 25 million Americans (11% of the voting population) do not have the kind of current, government-issued photo ID that’s now required to vote in-person in Ohio. The numbers are even higher for certain groups: 25% of Black Americans, 18% of young people, and 18% of adults 65+ lack these forms of ID.
But even for people who do have an acceptable ID in their state, or are just unclear about these shifting requirements, laws like these can create an environment of confusion, discouraging many from even trying to vote.
Despite the barriers that this new law may create for many voters, there’s also good news. I work with VoteRiders, the nation’s leading voter ID education and assistance organization. We’ve been at this work for 11 years, and we’re now on the ground in Ohio, holding Voter ID Clinics in communities across the state, coordinating free rides to Ohio BMV offices so voters can get IDs, and working with partner organizations to make sure Ohioans are fully informed about the new ID law.
If you’re an Ohio voter, and you don’t have a valid voter ID or just want more information, you can call or text the VoteRiders Helpline at 866-ID-2-VOTE to get questions answered about ID or to get free help from start to finish to get an acceptable voter ID.
I grew up in Ohio, and I went to law school because I wanted to do my part to help people exercise their fundamental right to vote. I’m so proud to be a part of the VoteRiders team, helping make sure that as many Ohio voters as possible can make their voices heard in this upcoming election and in all the other elections to come.
Nick Ramos is the Interim Ohio Voter ID Coalition Coordinator for VoteRiders.