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Need a Photo ID to Vote? Good Luck Getting One in KY

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020   

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- If Kentuckians are able to cast their ballots for president in person this fall, they'll need a valid form of photo ID. Critics point out that, with government and other ID-issuing office closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, the move is likely to cripple voter turnout.

Deborah Graner, a member of the Kentucky Voting Rights Coalition and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said the move also undermines Gov. Andy Beshear's recent executive order restoring voting rights to most Kentuckians with past felony convictions.

"And right now if you were a returning felon, and you got your right to vote back but you didn't have an ID, and you're going to have to jump through all of these hoops," she said, "can you imagine? Many people are going to say, hey, it's just not worth the effort."

Earlier this month, the Kentucky General Assembly overrode the governor's veto of the legislation, arguing that photo IDs are needed to prevent voter fraud. The law is slated to take effect for the November general election, but it's unclear whether the pandemic will shift the way ballots are cast this fall.

For the primary election in May, the governor has issued an executive order allowing Kentuckians who are registered voters to use a mail-in ballot. The state Board of Elections also says it's working on a plan to conduct limited in-person voting, and even a possible drive-through voting option for the primary. However, Graner said she feels many state lawmakers appear to be fixated on increasing barriers to voting, even when COVID-19 has added plenty of challenges.

"Eleven percent of Kentuckians do not possess a government ID," she said. "It reduces turnout by about 2% to 3% for people who get turned away because of not having one."

She said obtaining a valid photo ID requires time, money and travel -- obstacles that increasing numbers of Commonwealth residents now face as social-distancing measures continue.

The text of Senate Bill 2 is online at legislature.ky.gov, and Beshear's executive order is at governor.ky.gov.

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.


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