New Ohio voter ID law leaves out county-issued veteran ID cards

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Early voting started this week in Ohio for the May 2, 2023 Primary Election.

Some county officials are concerned a new state law intended to cut down on voter fraud could instead leave out some of our most vulnerable veterans.

Under the new Ohio law, you need a photo ID to cast a ballot in person.

State-authorized veteran ID cards issued by counties will no longer be accepted at the polls under the new state ID law.

Thousands of veterans across Ohio have found an easier way to prove their eligibility for benefits with this county-issued veteran ID card, which could be used for voting before.

The card cuts out carrying around military paperwork and is often free or costs just a couple of dollars.

It is also an authorized form of identification in Ohio.

“Our process for obtaining an ID is extremely rigorous, there have to be two forms of identification, including the veterans DD214 service records, showing how, when and which branch of the armed forces that they served with,” said Franklin County Recorder Daniel J. O’Connor Jr.

He said they’ve been issuing these cards for 10 years.

Some larger counties distribute them statewide or for smaller counties in their area.

Cuyahoga County and its Veterans Service Commission issues the veteran ID cards.

Executive Director Jon Reiss is frustrated the veteran ID card won’t be accepted at polling places under this new law.

“We’re putting a picture on it. We’re putting identifying information. We’re allowing them to be able to use that in different venues in the community. So it’s a little bit of a disservice that our veterans can’t then turn around and use that,” Reiss said.

Veterans with no other photo ID may have no idea until they show up to vote in person.

“So the veterans that are most likely to struggle to get other identification are our poorest and most vulnerable veterans. So those are individuals transitioning from homelessness that lack documentation that will take significant time and resources to try to identify where their social security card-- to reorder a social security card, to get a birth certificate,” Reiss said.

We found Cuyahoga County has issued just over 2,400 of the veteran ID cards over more than five years, from 2018 to 2023 year-to-date.

Summit County has issued about 5,500 of the ID cards since 2016.

And Franklin County has issued 5,700 of the ID cards since 2013.

Information from the Secretary of State

19 Investigates reached out to Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office to learn more.

A spokesperson told us the veteran ID card is not recognized in the new law because it is not state-issued.

He said no one is getting left behind and “there are a myriad of options that are not costly or cumbersome.”

The first option for veterans starts this Friday, when all Ohioans can get a free state-issued ID that’s permissible for voting at the BMV with the proper documents.

The second option, if you don’t have a photo ID, is voting absentee.

To do this, you need to provide the last four digits of your social security number.

Outreach to veterans

It’s hard to say how many veterans who use the county-issued veteran ID cards may be affected when they vote.

But O’Connor said one veteran is too many.

“That’s a slap in the face to folks who’ve served this country. And that’s what our real concern is here,” he said.

We asked him whether he is afraid some veterans won’t wind up being able to vote.

“I’m very afraid of that. Yeah, and I think it’s probably gonna happen and I hope it’s not widespread at all. I hope it’s very limited. But even if it’s one, that’s one too many because that’s someone who, you know, was willing to put their life on the line for this country,” O’Connor said.

That’s why officials who work with veterans at counties we spoke to want to raise awareness, so veterans have time to get another photo ID if possible.

The Franklin County Recorder’s Office is sending out a letter later this week to alert the nearly 6,000 veterans they issued cards to statewide of the voting changes.

Accepted forms of ID for voting

Under the new state law, veterans can use the following identification cards to vote in-person in Ohio:

-U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs ID card

-U.S. Military ID card

-Ohio National Guard ID card

Voters can also use an Ohio driver’s license, a state ID card, an interim ID and a U.S. passport for identification at the polls.

Click here for a list of accepted identification to vote under the new law.