Lawmakers hit the brakes on 8-year drivers’ licenses in Ohio

Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

The check engine light may be on for a piece of legislation that seemed simple enough not too long ago.​

State Representative Derek Merrin (Moncolva Township-R) wants to give Ohioans the option of renewing their driver’s license every eight years.​

Ohio would not be the first state to do this, 19 others already allow for this length of time between renewals.​

As it was introduced, Merrin’s bill opens this option up for motor vehicle, motorcycle, and commercial licenses as well as motorcycle operators endorsements, and motorized bicycle licenses, as long as the person is under the age of 65.​

People would still have the option for maintaining their license every 4-years instead.​

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee Tuesday, but that vote was put on hold.​

“There were questions expressed that were concerns and for that simple reason we decided to hold off on the vote,” said Chairman of the committee State Representative Doug Green (Mt. Orab-R). ​

The concerns were regarding how the bill interacts with a number of things, one of which is CDL requirements. Clarification was needed on this issues, and the solutions to any lingering problems appear to be easily applied according to Green.​

Another concern that was expressed, and may not be as easily resolved, deals with how the bill interacts with another piece of legislation being strongly supported by the Ohio Secretary of State; that bill uses the 4-year driver’s license renewal cycle as a lynchpin to keeping voters registrations up to date.​

Because of the way Ohio maintains its voter rolls, if a person does not update their registration or vote at least once in 4 years, they are in jeopardy of being added to the voter purge list. The state assumes they have died or moved out of state.​

A two-year process follows where the state tries to reach that voter by mail to get them to update their registration or vote, or risk being removed from the rolls.

​The automatic registration would catch people that may have moved but not changed their address on their voter registration.​

Here’s an example:​

Jim turns 20 in October and renews his 4-year driver’s license; and he decides to vote in his first Presidential General Election the next month. ​

He then moves from his registered voting address the following January to a different part of Columbus. He doesn’t update his license right away because he thinks that’s a hassle and doesn’t want to waste hours at the BMV. ​

Nobody said Jim was a bright guy.​

Jim then doesn’t get around to exercising his right to vote for several years; he tells people he’s “too busy.” Four years go by and he skips the next Presidential General Election, his lack of activity triggers him as a potential purge candidate. ​

Jim does bite the bullet and suffers though a trip to the BMV to renew his 4-year driver’s license though, and updates his address with the BMV. But the Post Office stops forwarding mail after a certain point and the notifications sent to him based on an old address in the voter registration system don’t make it to him, or if they do he doesn’t follow up.​

Two years later Jim is purged from the voter roles, he is obviously dead or not in Ohio anymore in the State’s eyes.​

Then, two years later, when he is actually convinced to use his right to vote in the Presidential General Election he finds out he’s been purged. ​

Do not fret, there are remedies for Jim; and depending on when he figures this out they vary from good to alright. ​

All of this would have been avoided however if the automatic registration is triggered when he renewed his 4-year license. ​

But if Jim got an 8-year license at the age of 20, and nothing else changed with his story, he would have been purged.​

Some are concerned that the 8-year option defeats the purpose of an automatic registration based on the 4-year renewal model.​

Others say, the solution is relatively simple; go vote.​

“People need to vote,” said Green. “But I do get the concern, I don’t want to imply that I don’t. Obviously voter registration is very important to the citizens of Ohio, we want everybody who is eligible to vote to vote, we don’t want to create an opportunity for people unknowingly to become ineligible.”​

Green and Sheehy expect discussions about the bill to be held and it could be back on the road to a vote as early as next week if concerns can be assuaged.​

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