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Voter Photo-ID Bill Clears KY Senate, Heads to House

Of the more than 3 million registered voters in Kentucky, 42% cast their ballots to elect Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in 2019. (Adobe Stock)
Of the more than 3 million registered voters in Kentucky, 42% cast their ballots to elect Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in 2019. (Adobe Stock)
January 24, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Republican Representatives Robby Mills of Henderson and Damon Thayer of Georgetown, now heads to the House for consideration.

Kentucky already has a law on books that requires an ID to vote, but it doesn't specify photo ID. And in many rural counties, a voter doesn't have to show any form of ID if the poll worker already knows them.

Corey Shapiro, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky says it appears the bill is being fast-tracked.

"This legislation does not need to be rushed through," says Shapiro. "Currently, if passed, (it) would be implemented for the November 2020 election, which is an extremely important election. We have a presidential election; we have a senatorial election."

He adds the law would not be in effect for the state's primary election in May.

Sponsoring legislators says the bill is needed to ensure that people properly identify themselves at the polls and to prevent voter fraud. Critics of the bill point to research that in-person voter fraud is extremely rare.

Tanya Fogle, community organizer and democracy fellow with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, believes the legislation will be another obstacle to getting people out to vote, particularly among communities that might not have or need photo IDs.

"People of color, people who are living in poverty, poor people, the working-class poor - it is a big barrier," says Fogle.

In an amended version of the bill, an expired photo ID would be acceptable.

According to data from the Secretary of State's Office, Kentucky's gubernatorial election last fall had the highest voter turnout since the mid-1990s.

Disclosure: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Civic Engagement, Energy Policy, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY