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Politics

Kentucky Legislature passes controversial voter photo ID bill

The Kentucky state Capitol building
Kentucky’s state Capitol in Frankfort in 2018. Lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls.
(Bryan Woolston / Associated Press)

In their flurry of last-minute work before taking a weeklong break, Kentucky lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

The measure cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday night and was sent to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. It was among stacks of bills voted on before lawmakers adjourned until March 26 due to concerns about the new coronavirus.

The final version was the product of a House-Senate conference committee. It would require voters to produce a photo ID when voting, with limited exceptions, starting with this November’s election, said Secretary of State Michael Adams, a leading supporter of the bill.

People lacking a photo ID could vote by provisional ballot and later produce an ID before their ballot could be counted, Adams said. Or they could cast their ballots if recognized by an election officer, who would have to sign a document affirming to knowing the voter.

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In praising the legislature’s action, Adams said the state “cannot lose sight of the importance of ballot integrity.”

Adams, a Republican, campaigned on the issue last year.

The bill’s opponents said voter impersonation isn’t a problem in Kentucky. They said the requirement would reduce turnout among minorities, the poor, the elderly and disabled voters.

The ACLU of Kentucky’s legal director, Corey Shapiro, said the final version was “missing important provisions that would have softened the blow to voters.” He said the ACLU objected to the “rushed timeline” to implement the photo ID requirement just months before a “highly anticipated general election.”

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In November, in addition to voting for president, Kentuckians will decide whether to reelect Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

People lacking a photo ID could vote by provisional ballot and later produce one so the ballot could be counted, Adams said. Or they could cast their ballots if recognized by an election officer, who would have to sign a document affirming to personally knowing the voter.

The ACLU said instituting a photo ID requirement now was especially bad because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Thousands of people who do not meet the newly mandated identification requirements will have to choose between exposing themselves to COVID-19 to obtain identification, or being forced to sit on the sidelines on election day,” Shapiro said.


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