CH Dems work to overcome new barriers to voting
Despite analysts across the political spectrum finding that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, Ohio dramatically overhauled its elections law in January 2023. While the legislation is wide-ranging, I will focus on new voter ID requirements, considered by many to be the strictest in the country, and the impact they may have on students.
Before passage of the new requirements, students could use a bill from their college or university as a form of identification. This convenient practice was acceptable for over a decade, but now a student, or any other voter, may use only an Ohio driver's license, Ohio ID card, U.S. passport, or military-issued ID. While requiring a voter to use one of these forms of identification might sound reasonable to some, it's important to consider the impact that this requirement could have on voters.
Without a passport or military ID, a student must travel off campus to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to obtain an Ohio driver's license or ID card. As anyone who has visited the BMV knows, getting what you came for can easily take an hour or longer. While the BMV will waive the cost of an ID card if a person attests that they cannot afford it, there can be other costs beyond the cost of the card itself.
For example, in order to get a driver's license or ID card, a person must bring documents proving their full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, legal presence, and Ohio residency. There is often a cost to obtaining copies of these documents—the city of Cleveland, for example, charges $25 to replace a birth certificate and takes two to four weeks to process requests. These are not insignificant hurdles for someone looking to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Overcoming these barriers will require a coordinated effort from university administrators, student groups, and voter outreach groups like Rock the Vote and Mobilize the Vote NEO. As Rep. Juanita Brent regularly reminds people, you are stronger when you come together as a fist than when you stand alone as individual fingers.
Cleveland Heights Democrats are working hard to overcome these and other voting barriers passed into law at the beginning of the year. We have been working with the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, Ohio Promote the Vote, and other groups so that we can figure out all of the changes and develop strategies to reach affected voters.
Jim Petras serves as secretary of the Cleveland Heights Democrats and leads the organization's Voter Outreach Committee. He has announced his candidacy for CH City Council.