Backers of proposed KY voter ID law draw criticism

On the first day of Kentucky's legislative session, Republican state lawmakers called a proposed voter ID law one of their top priorities.
Updated: Jan. 8, 2020 at 7:04 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – On the first day of Kentucky's legislative session, Republican state lawmakers called a proposed voter ID law one of their top priorities.

Proponents said it would increase confidence in the state's elections, but some are claiming it would keep legal voters from heading to the polls.

If approved, voters would need a photo ID to cast a ballot in-person or through the mail.

New Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams claims the mail-in aspect sets the law apart from others across the country. A voter would be required to send in a photocopied version of their ID with their ballot.

Adams claimed, without the law, the state was facing the 'perfect storm' for fraud.

"We're in a perfect storm now in Kentucky because we have no requirement to prove identity with a photo I-D," Adams said. "We also have voter rolls that have not been adequately maintained for the past decade."

The proposed measure, Senate Bill 2, also lays out a process to provide free IDs to people in need. ​

Proponents also state that, if voters don't have a proper ID on Election Day, they can later provide an affidavit to explain why they didn't. ​

Those at the ACLU said SB 2 would make it especially hard for minorities, people who are disabled, the elderly, and hourly workers to vote. ​

"Some people will have to be forced to pay money to take out time to get the underlying documents needed for these photo IDs," Corey Shapiro, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said.

Shapiro adds, while upfront charges may be covered by the state, people will still have to incur costs to take off work and get to offices that provide the IDs.

He also said educating voters about the new law and providing IDs to people free of charge would be costly to the state, which is already facing a pension crisis among other budget constraints.

Shapiro noted, after Indiana implemented a similar policy, it cost the Hoosier state over $10 million over four years.

The ACLU stated the following in a statement sent to WAVE 3 News:

"The real problem facing Kentucky voters and elections are our restrictive voting policies, and this mandatory voter ID bill will only make matters worse. When enacted, photo ID laws reduce turnout by 2-3 percent. Additionally, polls are open only from 6 AM to 6 PM, and unlike nearly every other state, one needs to have specific excuses to vote absentee. Hourly workers are forced to choose between taking unpaid leave or not voting. If the Senate truly cared about improving our democratic processes, they would make it easier to vote by increasing access to the polls by creating vote-by-mail, expanding the hours polls are open, or even allowing people to vote absentee without an excuse.”

Adams said, in addition to state IDs, photo identification issued by universities, the military or other federal agencies would qualify under the rule.

Opponents argued the bill states those forms of identification would need an expiration date and Kentucky's largest colleges UK and UofL currently don't include that.

Republican bill sponsor Sen. Robby Mills said the bill provides confidence to the election process in Kentucky.

"It's a confidence issue," Mills said. "Every election, there's always a little bit of blurbs going on nationally or statewide."

That was the case after Governor Matt Bevin lost the 2019 general election. Bevin claimed, without providing evidence, of election irregularities, but conceding after a recanvas.

"The purported problem that exists would be in-person voter fraud, which simply is not a problem," Shapiro said. "There is no evidence that it is a problem. We had a highly contested election this fall and not a single credible instance of voter fraud was found."​

When asked, Adams didn't provide any recent examples of fraud happening in Kentucky that pertained to voter impersonation in recent years.

Members of the group Together We Will: Louisville also said Kentucky laws already address voter identification sufficiently.

The group states that currently includes producing a driver’s license, social security card, federal, county or state ID card, credit card, or being known by the poll worker.

In part, the group released the following:

"The current law is sufficient as well as the provisional ballot that exists today. This bill infers that voters are not meeting current identification regulations and appears to be an attempt to prevent those of our state who are the most disenfranchised from voting. These requirements, though not necessary under current law, would require more voters to take additional time off from jobs, caretaking, increase difficulty for the disabled not to mention the additional costs and loss of income as a result.

This bill clearly is an effort to make it more difficult to vote in Kentucky. There has been no proof of any election tampering in this state and these efforts are clearly partisan by the GOP."

If the bill becomes law, Adams said it wouldn’t go into effect until after the May primary elections.

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