A U.S. federal judge ruled recently that voter identification legislation enacted in Ohio, inclusive of a photo ID specification, is consistent with the Constitution. This decision led to the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a Democratic legal firm against the law’s clauses such as photo ID need, constraints around ballot drop boxes, and stricter deadlines for provisional and absentee voting.
On a Monday verdict, Judge Donald Nugent declared that the mandate of photo ID for Ohio voters as stipulated by the law does not exceed a negligible encumbrance, if any, to the majority of the constituents. The Elias Law Group, which filed the lawsuit last year, argued on behalf of multiple groups including military veterans, teachers, retirees, and unsheltered persons. They held that the legislation imposes unnecessary and discriminatory obstacles to the exercise of democratic rights.
Judge Nugent refuted the abovementioned allegations and stated unequivocally that the Constitution makes no provision for voters to access mail-in voting or early voting as a legitimate entitlement. In addition, he underscored that Ohio’s revised agenda for obtaining and submitting absentee votes is, in fact, more generous than similar arrangements in 30 other states.
He also challenged the contention that limiting ballot drop boxes to one location per county unfairly disadvantages voters. Nugent pointed out that the 2023 law indicated Ohio’s inaugural utilization of ballot drop boxes. Therefore, the argument that the new legislation would disproportionately affect voters was not substantiated.
However, it’s insightful to recall that the proposal to enforce one ballot drop box per county as a norm was enacted by the Republican-majority legislature. This plan had surfaced after a prolonged, divisive debate over the same topic.
Prior to the 2020 general elections, the then Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, was criticized by three different courts for his directive mandating single-ballots drop boxes, which was perceived as both arbitrary and unfair.
Several Democrats along with organizations advocating for voting rights had suggested the introduction of multiple drop boxes. These proponents had emphasized their proposition, arguing that densely populated counties would benefit greatly from this recommendation and ease the voting process amidst the ongoing pandemic, as reported by ABC.
In 2020, Democrats retaliated by filing a lawsuit and the state’s appellate court eventually ruled that Secretary of State Frank LaRose had the jurisdiction to increase the number of ballot drop boxes without seeking additional clearance from the legislature. The caveat, however, was that he was not necessarily required to do so.
The law enacted in 2023, which formalized the restriction of having a single ballot drop box per county, responded to the controversy definitively. Nevertheless, according to Judge Nuget, the dissent to the law fell short of making a compelling case.
The judge asserted, ‘To put it simply, the litigants failed to provide tangible evidence that the ballot drop box regulations, as set forth in the HB 458, imposed any tangible burden, much less an egregious one, on Ohio voters.’
Later, in November, a state court in New Hampshire issued a verdict likely to be perceived as a setback by Democrats in a potentially pivotal state ahead of the 2024 elections. Democrats had hoped to influence the pattern of voting among Americans but found their lawsuits against the state’s voter ID law dismissed due to the lack of valid standing.
Justice Charles Temple of the Hillsborough Superior Court expressed that the cases lodged against the law were without merit as the plaintiffs could not provide any substantiating evidence to illustrate that their ability to vote was hindered by the prescribed requisites, as reported by The Federalist.
It’s worth noting that RITE was the defendant in the aforementioned case. Though this verdict might be seen as a setback for some, it reaffirms the importance of a robust and fair electoral system which is vital for the functioning democracy.