COLUMBUS, OHIO — Today, the ACLU Of Ohio sent a letter to Secretary LaRose raising questions and requesting clarity about certain provisions in HB 458 that will adversely affect voters with disabilities. This letter is a follow-up to a request for clarification sent in February, prior to HB 458 being implemented into law. With the May 2 elections occurring next week, the ACLU of Ohio raises follow-up questions to ensure that every one of Ohio’s voters with a disability can cast a fair and accessible ballot.
The ACLU of Ohio maintains that until satisfactory answers are provided or modifications are made, the new law conflicts with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The policy areas of most concern:
1. The impact on voters with disabilities of the new photo ID requirement for in-person voting.
(a) The process of obtaining photo identification can be prohibitively burdensome for voters with disabilities, who will often have difficulties in traveling to identification-issuing offices. The law should permit voters with disabilities who lack the proper photo ID to provide an affidavit attesting to their identity, a modification already extended to voters who have religious objections.
2. Criminalization of assistance by non-family members regarding the return of absentee ballots.
(a) HB 458 created a new criminal penalty for persons returning an absentee voter’s ballot unless that person is authorized to do so. No one other than the spouse , father, mother, father in-in-law, mother-in-law, grandfather, grandmother, brother, or sister of the whole or half blood, or the son, daughter, adopting parent, adopted child, stepparent, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the elector may return a ballot. Voters with a disability may not have such authorized relatives available, and may need a caretaker, friend or neighbor to assist them in returning a voted absentee ballot.
“HB 458 creates extreme barriers for Ohioans with disabilities. These cumbersome hurdles present legal, ethical, and moral concerns about election integrity and accessibility in our state,” offered Collin Marozzi, Deputy Policy Director for the ACLU of Ohio. “With the May 2 election coming next week, we look forward to Secretary LaRose’s swift response on how the state will clarify the rules to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.”