COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Kayla Griffin remembers driving home from her Kent State University dorm in 2008 to vote for the first time.
But as a frequent election flyer 14 years later, the Ohio director for national voting rights organization All Voting is Local still has to occasionally check the secretary of state’s website to confirm what identification will work on Election Day.
“Unless you have a cheat sheet next to you, it can get a little confusing,” Griffin said.
Ohio law: ID is required, but voters can use a number of forms
Voter ID laws are relatively new to U.S. elections. They vary by state, and many were ratified in the last two decades, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Thirty-five states currently have some version of a photo or non-photo identification law on the books, with 18 mandating voters present photo ID at the polls, according to the nonpartisan public officials’ association.
Ohio is one that permits non-photo IDs — and the Buckeye state first started requiring proof of identity during the 2006 elections.
According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s website, Ohioans can currently vote with:
- Photo ID (such as an Ohio driver’s license) issued by the federal or state government, as long as it is current and includes the voter’s name, an address, and a photo
- Military ID
- A utility bill (including water, sewer, electric, heating, cable, internet, cell phone, among others), as long as it includes the voter’s name and address and was issued within the last 12 months. The bill can also show a balance of $0 or that no money is owed
- A bank statement, as long as it includes the voter’s name and address and was issued within the last 12 months
- A government check issued by any level of government, as long as it includes the voter’s name and address and was issued within the last 12 months
- A paycheck or paystub, as long as it includes the voter’s name and address and was issued within the last 12 months
However, Ohio prohibits voters from using any other state’s driver’s license, a Social Security card, or a passport — those are all considered invalid. The secretary of state’s website has a more detailed list of valid and invalid ID forms.
Griffin said the sheer number of ID forms accepted gives Ohioans leeway, but it can also be a source of confusion for voters and election workers alike.
What if you don’t have — or don’t bring — your ID to vote?
If you are all set to vote and then realize you don’t have a valid ID with you, don’t fret.
Ohioans can still cast a provisional ballot, which looks identical to standard ballots but is cast “provisionally” until election workers can verify whatever is in question.
While provisional ballots are cast for a number of reasons, Ohioans who vote provisionally because of ID — or lack thereof — aren’t immediately off the hook after leaving the polls. The state requires you to return to your county board of elections within seven days to validate or “cure” your ballot by providing any of the ID forms listed above or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Around 24,000 provisional ballots were rejected of the more than 150,000 cast in Ohio during the 2020 election, according to the secretary of state.
Boards of elections don’t track why someone cast a provisional ballot in the first place, but the second most likely reason for a provisional ballot being rejected was due to a voter not providing their ID.
More stringent ID requirements could come in future Ohio elections
Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) wants to see the state tighten its voter ID laws more.
Gavarone introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate in April 2022 that would require voters to present photo ID at the polls. If Senate Bill 320 were to pass, it would mean some previously permitted forms — like utility bills or bank statements — would no longer be valid for voting.
“You need a photo ID to do an awful lot of different things: To get a job, to rent an apartment,” Gavarone said in an interview. “We want to encourage people to vote, but on top of that, we want to give people that extra layer of confidence that we’re doing things right here in Ohio.”
The proposal is still in committee, and the Ohio General Assembly’s legislative session ends on Dec. 31. But Gavarone said the bill is a big priority for her and she would plan on reintroducing it next year, absent any movement before then.
Rob Nichols, a spokesperson for LaRose — the Republican incumbent currently running for reelection — said the secretary of state is fine with the photo ID requirements laid out in Gavarone’s proposal, so long as they don’t come at monetary cost to voters. That could constitute a poll tax, Nichols said.
Under Senate Bill 320, state ID cards would be given free of cost to anyone who applies.
But some opponents say eliminating previously accepted ID forms takes it too far regardless. Chelsea Clark, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, said public officials should focus instead on making the electoral process easier for people who are eligible to vote.
“This is another extreme example of making it harder to vote — especially for those who are poor and don’t drive or elderly,” Clark said in a statement to NBC4.
Griffin said All Voting is Local is also against Gavarone’s bill.
“If the state wants to pay for people to get IDs, they should do that, and that’s fine,” Griffin said. “But don’t take away the opportunities and provisions that people have to utilize.”