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Ohio's new voter-ID bill sparks debate

A lawsuit challenging the law claims it disenfranchises some voters, while supporters claim it's a secure method to protect against voter fraud.

OHIO, USA — All Ohioans will be required to have a state-issued ID when voting since Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill with multiple election-law changes earlier this month.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose also supports the new law. 

"Ohio has found 'a common-sense way' to impose a strict photo ID requirement without disenfranchising voters," LaRose told the Associated Press.

WTOL 11 reached out to local board of elections offices for comment on the new law, but officials with both the Lucas and Wood county board of elections offices said they didn't feel comfortable speaking on the new law until they receive official guidance from LaRose.

LaRose has said the policy change is a straightforward and secure way to prevent voter fraud.

State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R, Bowling Green), who helped write the language in the bill, claimed the changes should not create any obstacles for voters. Ohioans who are 17 and older can obtain a free state-issued ID at their local BMV, she said.

Voting-rights organizations across Ohio have joined together to file a lawsuit against the state to stop the new law before May's elections. The lawsuit claims the new law forces Ohio voters to jump through more unnecessary hoops and leaves some people disenfranchised.

Anne Fabiszak Payne, co-president of Lucas County's League of Women Voters, said voters who have been casting ballots with proof-of-identity documents such as a summons or an electric bill will now be denied at the door unless they have another form of ID.

"Sometimes driver's licenses are revoked," Payne said. "Sometimes people can't get the ID because it requires paperwork they don't have. The fact that the bill makes IDs free, that's a good thing."

Payne said while proponents of the measure say they want to fight voter fraud, they are basing their initiative on false claims that dead people and non-citizens are casting ballots in Ohio elections.

"There is growing loud voice ... that believes that people who are dead are voting, that people who are not citizens are voting, and it just isn't true," Payne said. "LaRose will tell you that, with the studies he's done. There just isn't fraud."

LaRose's office claims more than 630 alleged cases of voter fraud have been caught since he took office in 2019.

The law doesn't apply to absentee voting. Casting an absentee ballot does not require ID, just the last four digits of your social security number. The 2023 Ohio primary election is on May 2. Early voting the day before has also been eliminated under the new law.

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