Ohio’s photo voter ID law already facing legal challenge

By: - January 10, 2023 5:00 am

COLUMBUS, OH — MAY 03: Roster Judge Don English, a first time poll worker hands the ballot to a voter on the auditorium stage that serves as the voting location during the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the Worthington Kilbourne High School, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

The same day Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law, Ohio’s new photo voter ID law saw its first court challenge. The Elias Law group filed suit Friday on a behalf of a handful of Ohio interest groups.

The firm, headed up by Democratic elections attorney Marc Elias, rose to national prominence in part by opposing the Trump campaign’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The firm has also carved a niche for itself pursuing voting rights and redistricting cases around the country.

In Ohio, for instance, the firm has challenged maps on behalf of the National Redistricting Action Fund. It went on to argue against the state’s “independent legislature theory” appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elias attorneys filed its suit on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Union Veterans Council.

The challenge

In a statement, Elias attorney Abha Khanna called Ohio’s new law “a sweeping attack on Ohioans’ fundamental right to vote.”

Although requiring voters to present a photo ID when voting is the most recognizable change, the law makes other important changes, too. The timeline to “cure” deficiencies for provisional ballots is now shorter. The deadline for absentee ballots to arrive after an election is tighter as well.

“This bill makes it substantially harder for Ohioans to vote in person and by mail, and makes it harder to correct simple mistakes that prevent ballots from being counted,” Khanna said. “By their own admission, (Secretary of State Frank LaRose) and Governor DeWine have no justification for this harsh crackdown on voting rights.”

LaRose has lobbied for years to see many of the changes enshrined in law, despite regularly touting the integrity of Ohio’s election system. Speaking after Gov. DeWine’s inauguration, LaRose declined to weigh in on the lawsuit, but praised the law for making photo ID’s freely available.

LaRose also reiterated a point he’s made previously that photo ID restrictions are in line with what voters want. DeWine made a similar point in his signing statement as well.

The Elias Group challenge dismisses those assertions outright.

“To the extent there is any need to bolster public confidence in the security and accuracy of Ohio’s elections, it is the result of HB 458’s proponents’ false and baseless claims of election fraud,” the lawsuit states. “That is not a valid justification for limiting voters’ ability to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

It’s not the first time Elias has weighed in on similar provisions in Ohio, either. In 2021, the firm promised to challenge a voting bill that made many of the same changes, but not the photo ID requirement.

Attorneys brought the case in federal court in Ohio’s northern district.

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.

MORE FROM AUTHOR