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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Bill likely coming up in lame duck could require Ohio voters to have a photo ID

Voters cast ballots early at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus the weekend before the election in 2018. [Daniel Konik / Statehouse News Bureau]
Voters cast ballots early at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus the weekend before the election in 2018.

A bill to make changes in Ohio voting laws is likely a top priority for Republicans in the lame duck legislative session after the election and it’s expected to be a version of a bill many Republicans already support.

But this time it would include an element that’s new and controversial to some.

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) already has a bill to create online ballot requests with two forms of ID, to limit the locations and window of time for ballot dropboxes and to shorten the period to request early ballots.

Seitz said he’s talking with Senate Republicans on what will stay in the bill, but he expects to add something — photo identification requirements for nearly all voters.

“Yes, we would require a photo ID, but it would be free and it would be free even if you were not able to submit an affidavit of indigency, to everybody who doesn't have a driver's license," Seitz said.

But Seitz said if a photo ID requirement were added, the bill would exempt college students, because they may be registered to vote in their home cities but still want to vote while away at school.

“They would have to still be able to prove that they were registered up at the college residence. So we would keep the utility bill/bank statement route for them to prove their current address," Seitz said. "But only for them."

Critics have said it’s hard for some voters to travel for photo IDs, and that photo ID laws reduce voter turnout. Even Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted opposed voter photo ID requirements when he was secretary of state.

Seitz said he's seen estimates that it could cost the state $2 million to $10 million to implement the photo ID requirement, but also said there’s overwhelming support for photo ID requirements.

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