The 15-page bill suddenly became a 157-page bill and gave the people of Ohio twenty-four hours to understand its massive changes and submit testimony
Comic of a voting site on the moon

Earlier this week civil rights and grassroots leaders, such as the Ohio Conference of NAACP, released a letter to Ohio legislators urging them to vote “NO” on Substitute HB 458. But both the GOP entrenched Ohio Senate and the Ohio House passed the bill yesterday, posturing this legislation as an effort to combat voter fraud, which is mostly a myth. Governor Mike DeWine is expected to sign the bill into law. 

Extremist Republican politicians have inserted terrible new voting restrictions into Ohio law by passing Substitute House Bill 458 – a harmful anti-voter law that will take away our freedom to vote and make our voices heard. Sub HB 458 is legislation that disproportionately targets Black, bron, and naturalized Ohioans. Ohio legislators should be seeking ways to expand voter participation, not disempowering certain voters from the franchise. 

“HB 458 would radically alter the way in which Ohioans cast their ballot and subject every voter to a my-way-or-the-highway, strict photo ID mandate,” said Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director for Ohio ACLU, in opponent testimony at the Statehouse.

The amended HB 458 will provide photo ID cards free, but these “free” IDs will cost taxpayers between $6.50 and $13 per issued ID, adding millions of dollars to our state budget to implement a photo ID requirement that won’t improve our elections.

“Requiring a photo ID to vote is an unnecessary obstacle to voting for those without the means or desire to have a driver’s license or state ID card,” said Marozzi. “Not only will HB 458 prohibit Ohioans without a driver’s license or state ID card from having their vote count, it makes several other novel changes to election law that have yet to be vetted by this committee, or any other committee of the General Assembly.

“Changes including the counterintuitive prohibition on a county Board of Elections operating a 24/7 drop box; the elimination of Monday voting without a corresponding allocation of those lost six hours; requiring confined voters to use a driver’s license or state ID – something that often isn’t available when you’re in a jail or hospital; and forcing all absentee ballots to be received by their Board of Elections by the close of polls, instead of ten days post-election, and if they’re received after the close of polls, to destroy them.”

The Senate Local Government Committee transformed a simple bill to eliminate August special elections into a complete election overhaul. Sub HB 458 disenfranchises voters of color by creating significant barriers to voting and massive confusion at the polls. Such significant changes in the voting rules, should have allowed the public more than a few hours notice to review and provide testimony; given the impact these amendments will have on our communities.

The future of our communities – particularly Black and brown Ohioans – is gravely impacted by this legislation, if Sub HB 458 passes. Voters will lose many important voting freedoms including as mentioned above by the Ohio ACLU:

  • The freedom to register to vote and vote with an alternate form of ID such as a utility bill, government document, or paycheck. Voters will be forced to provide a strict photo ID to vote, whether voting by absentee ballot, or in person on Election Day, or provisionally.
  • The freedom to vote provisionally with the last four digits of their Social Security Number, unless they have religious exemption that excuses them from the strict photo ID requirement.
  • Voters will lose access to dropboxes by limiting Boards of Election to a single drop box location, open only during business hours only, and limited to the early voting period.  This change ignores the geographical and population differences across our 88 counties.
  • Non-citizens risk being targeted and harassed by a new requirement to list citizenship status on Ohio driver’s license.
  • Grandchildren will continue to be prohibited from dropping off their grandparents’ absentee ballots.  
  • Voters will lose the last Monday day of early voting.  It is the second most popular day of early voting. Hours that were previously codified in Sub. HB 294 will be eliminated.

There are many ways we could improve voting and elections in Ohio: same-day registration, automatic voter registration, multiple early vote centers, additional drop boxes, and so much more. 

None of the unnecessary voting restrictions in Sub HB 458 actually solve any problems: they’re simply attacking our freedom to vote. 
Our freedom to vote is sacred. Our fundamental freedom to make our voices heard through our ballot is currently under attack and we demand strong leadership to stand with us to protect it. 

“There has been no time for vetting these novel changes, we have no idea how many voters HB 458 will disenfranchise,” said Marozzi. “We have no idea how much this is going to cost Ohio taxpayers, and we have no reason to believe a bulk of the changes included in these amendments will improve Ohio’s elections.”