COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a sweeping package of election law changes Friday that includes the state's first photo ID requirement and shortened windows after Election Day for returning and curing ballots.
In a statement, DeWine said the new law would protect election integrity.
“I appreciate the General Assembly working with my administration on changes to House Bill 458 to ensure that more restrictive proposals were not included in the final bill," he said. “Legislators included our suggestions to expand access to valid photo IDs and to maintain Ohioans’ ability to cast absentee ballots without the more restrictive identification requirements that were debated.”
The second-term governor signaled he may veto any further legislative attempts to restrict the state's voting laws, saying he does not "expect to see any further statutory changes to Ohio voting procedures while I am governor.”
Among other changes, the bill prohibits curbside voting — except for those with disabilities — and limits ballot drop boxes to one per county, on board of elections property.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose has set a one-location cap by directive in recent elections, but with multiple boxes allowed on site. A court case in 2020 clarified that he has the right to allow them to be placed at various spots around a county.
LaRose, also a Republican, joined DeWine in supporting the new law, saying Ohio has found “a common-sense way” to impose a strict photo ID requirement without disenfranchising voters.
“No piece of legislation is a silver-bullet solution, but we are once again showing Ohioans that we take their concerns seriously and are dedicated to continuously improving our elections,” he said in a statement.
The new law also prohibits LaRose and county election boards from pre-paying return postage on ballots.
By trimming time frames for mailed ballots and provisional processing, Republican lawmakers say they are trying to speed up the vote-counting process that has come under public scrutiny since former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Democrats and voting rights advocates have called that an excuse for making it more cumbersome to vote in the state. They point to statistics showing voter fraud is already extremely rare and say tightening restrictions is unnecessary.
Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters blasted DeWine for gracing the bill with his signature. Voting rights, civil rights, labor and environmental groups are among those who had been begging with him to veto it.
“Ohio Republicans know that their out-of-touch agenda and anti-worker policies are betraying Ohio voters, and they don’t want to be held accountable,” she said in a statement. “So they’re further rigging the rules in their favor and pushing one of the worst anti-voter bills in the entire country all so that they can keep lining the pockets of their corporate donors and leave working families in Ohio out to dry."