WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a federal judge upheld multiple provisions of Ohio’s 2023 omnibus voter suppression law, House Bill 458, finding that the statute’s slate of voting restrictions on the in-person and absentee voting process do not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The ruling resulted from a federal lawsuit brought early last year by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans, Union Veterans Council and Civic Influencers.
The plaintiff groups, who filed the legal challenge on the same day the Republican-backed legislation was enacted a year ago, alleged that multiple aspects of the H.B. 458 are unconstitutional and impose disproportionately severe burdens on young, elderly, Black, unhoused and military/overseas voters.
The plaintiffs specifically challenged the law’s strict new photo ID provision that requires one of four forms of photo ID (a driver’s license, state identification card, passport or military identification) in order to vote in person and eliminates a long list of previously accepted IDs.
The lawsuit also posed challenges to the H.B. 458’s curtailed time period in which voters can fix mistakes on their provisional and rejected mail-in ballots and the law’s advanced deadline for voters to request and return mail-in ballots. Further, the plaintiffs brought claims against H.B. 458’s restrictions on the use of drop boxes and its elimination of early, in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day.
In today’s order ruling in favor of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), the Ohio Republican party and a group of GOP voters, the judge held that the challenged provisions are constitutional and do not pose an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote as the lawsuit alleged.
The judge conceded that although voter fraud is “exceedingly rare” in Ohio, the state nevertheless has a legitimate state interest in upholding “election integrity” and is therefore justified in enacting legislation that “prevent[s] voter fraud before it occurs.”
“The changes to Ohio election law brought about by HB 458 are each very small changes to Ohio’s voting laws – laws that apply equally to all Ohioans,” the opinion reads, concluding that “Ohio’s generous voting law regime appears to rise well above the constitutional floor for voting.”
As a result of today’s decision, Ohio’s voter suppression law remains in effect. Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations is currently leading an effort to place a voting rights amendment on the ballot that would make voting easier in the Buckeye State. Among its many provisions, the proposed amendment would allow for same-day voter registration during early voting and on Election Day, implement automatic voter registration, permit no-excuse mail-in voting for all Ohioans and allow voters to cast a ballot without ID by signing a declaration attesting to their identity.