The Ballot Bulletin: Ohio governor signs bill amending election laws

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. 

This is the final monthly edition of The Ballot Bulletin. Starting February 3, this newsletter will be sent weekly on Fridays, featuring several new charts and visuals of the latest bills and legislative activity from Ballotpedia’s Election Administration Legislation Tracker. Each week, we’ll give you the latest on noteworthy election-related bills in state legislatures, recent bill activity, and a look at the big picture—how many bills have been signed into law? By members of which political party? And more.

But, in today’s issue:

  1. Ohio governor signs bill amending election laws
  2. Thirteen election bills advance in state legislatures
  3. Legislation update: Activity in January 2023

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Ohio governor signs bill amending election laws

On Jan. 6, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed HB458, a bill requiring voters to show an unexpired photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The bill also eliminates August special elections, prohibits curbside voting, and limits ballot drop boxes to one per county.

Ohio State Rep. Thomas Hall (R) introduced HB458 on Oct. 19, 2021. The House passed the bill 67-22 on Dec. 9. In the Senate, the bill was referred to the Local Government and Elections Committee, where State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R) proposed an amendment adding voter identification requirements to the bill. The committee reported the bill favorably on Dec. 13, 2022, and the full Senate passed the amended bill 24-7 on the same day.

“Elections integrity is a significant concern to Americans on both sides of the aisle across the country, DeWine said. “At the same time, I have long believed that Ohio does a good job of administering elections, as we have provided ample opportunities to cast votes while avoiding the problems we have seen in recent federal elections in other states,” DeWine said.  Gavarone, who proposed the voter identification amendment, said, “You need a photo ID to do an awful lot of different things: to get a job, to rent an apartment. We want to encourage people to vote, but on top of that, we want to give people that extra layer of confidence that we’re doing things right here in Ohio.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said, “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. 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.” All Voting is Local Ohio State Director Kayla Griffin said, “We will witness – and many of us will experience –  extreme barriers to the ballot and disenfranchisement. It is going to take an all hands on deck approach to help voters understand what is happening.” The organization, which says it “exists to expose and dismantle threats to voter freedom,” said the bill was “undemocratic and erects extreme barriers to the ballot.”

Ohio law previously permitted non-photo identification as proof of identity when voting. Non-photo IDs including utility bills, bank statements, or government checks were allowed, but voters must now present an Ohio driver’s license, state identification card, passport, military ID, or state-issued interim identification form.

Ohio has had a Republican trifecta since 2011, meaning the Republican Party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. After the 2022 election, Republicans have a 26-7 majority in the Ohio Senate and a 67-32 majority in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Thirteen election bills advance in state legislatures

Of the election-related bills active in 2023, 13 bills in eight states have passed one chamber of their respective state legislatures. 

Three bill are in states with Democratic trifectas:

  • NJ S856: Allows county boards of elections to begin canvassing early votes cast during the early voting period.
  • NJ A3915: Requires the state to pay for a new election if the state made errors during the initial election.
  • NJ S1436: Prohibits electioneering from taking place within 25 feet of anyone waiting in line either at a polling location or ballot drop box. 

Seven bills are in states with Republican trifectas:

  • AR HB1105: Allows use of funds appropriated for election expenses to cover the expenses of the State Board of Election Commissioners and any county board of election commissioners to conduct certain elections. 
  • MT SB10: Provides that school district trustees must submit finance propositions to voters. 
  • ND HB1038: Requires voter approval for increases in city mill levies. 
  • ND SB2050: Allows political subdivisions to establish a library without an election.
  • WY HB0047: Requires a vendor to apply with the secretary of state for certification of an electronic voting system.
  • WY SF0086: Would make a valid concealed firearm permit an acceptable form of voting identification.
  • UT SB0043: Modifies public notice requirements for elections and election-related events.

Three bills are in states with divided governments:

  • PA SB1: Modifies voter identification requirements.
  • VA SB391: Allows local governments to petition the circuit court for a referendum on the question of whether marijuana establishments should be prohibited.
  • VA SB495: Allows recall referendums to be used to remove certain  elected and appointed officials.

Legislation update: Legislation activity in January 2023

During January 2023, legislatures in 38 states took action on 696 election bills.

Democrats sponsored 277 of the 696 bills addressed in January (39.8%). Republicans sponsored 318 (45.7%). Bipartisan groups sponsored 31 (4.5%). Partisan sponsorship information was unavailable for the remainder of the bills. 

This information comes from Ballotpedia’s Election Administration Legislation Tracker, which went live on June 29. This free and accessible online resource allows you to find easy-to-digest bill tags and summaries—written and curated by our election administration experts! We update our database and bill-tracking daily. Using our powerful interactive search function, you can zero in on more than 2,500 bills (and counting) covering these topics:

  • Absentee/mail-in voting and early voting policies
  • Ballot access requirements for candidates, parties, and ballot initiatives
  • Election dates and deadlines
  • Election oversight protocols
  • In-person voting procedures
  • Post-election procedures (including counting, canvassing, and auditing policies)
  • Voter ID
  • Voter registration and eligibility

To make your search results more precise, we first place bills into one of 22 parent categories. We then apply to each bill one or more of the 90 tags we’ve developed. 

If you don’t want to immerse yourself in the world of election legislation quite that often, we have a free, weekly digest that goes straight to your inbox and keeps you caught up on the week’s developments.