Does a resident alien's Ohio license look different than mine?
The short answer is yes, Ron, it does. I called the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and learned a resident alien's license looks different in two ways from yours. Non-U.S. citizens permitted to work or go to school in Ohio can obtain an Ohio driver's license so they can legally drive while in our state. The license shows a date of expiration that coincides with the expiration of the person's permits to be in the country. For example, if someone has paperwork to be in the U.S. through June 2013, the license will show an expiration date of June 2013 (not coinciding with the person's date of birth, like a typical Ohio license). Also, there is a red line at the bottom of the license that says "Non-renewable - Non-transferable," indicating the license belongs to a resident alien and cannot be renewed past the expiration date on the card.
I understand that a passport is pretty much tops when it comes to proof of identity. But requiring it to vote would create some problems. First, only about 30 percent of Americans have a passport and the cost to get one is now more than $100. Most people would think that an unreasonable fee to vote, especially if they never intend to travel outside the U.S.
It's important to remember you can't just walk into a voting precinct on election day and present a driver's license to vote. You first have to register to vote several weeks in advance of an election, which requires a social security number or an Ohio Driver's License (and as we reviewed above, the state keeps track of who has a resident alien license and who is a U.S. citizen.) The information potential voters provide on their registration form is checked by the state for authenticity before the name is enrolled among those registered to vote.
It may not be as good as a passport, but I hope it comforts you that there are provisions in place to ensure only U.S. citizens are able to participate in elections.
Happy election day!