Lawmakers Consider Having Voters Show ID Before Voting

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Republican lawmakers in the Senate want voters to present a photo ID before casting their ballots.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Senator Robby Mills, R-Henderson, is one of the Senate’s top priorities and has strong support from Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams.

Mills and Adams say the bill is not about voter suppression but rather secure elections.

Here are some key provisions of Senate Bill 2:

  • Removes the $30 fee to obtain a government ID for anyone eligible to vote who does not already have a driver’s license or other voter ID. This is regardless if they are registered to vote or not.
  • College, military and other valid photo ID’s are allowed to be used.
  • Those who show an affidavit proving a valid barrier to obtaining a state ID will be able to vote.
  • Individuals who do not have a photo ID when they head to the polls can vote on a provisional ballot until they can show the photo ID.
  • A photo ID would be required to vote by mail, those voting by mail would have to send in a photocopy of their ID with their request for an absentee ballot.
  • Does not have an emergency clause, meaning it would not go into effect until after the May primary.

Secretary Adams says the current proposal is not final.

“It is an excellent start but also a work in progress that will be improved by deliberation in committee and on the floor in both chambers. I welcome, I encourage public input from across the spectrum on how we can improve this bill,” Adams said. “Success for me is not spending my four year term arguing the constitutionality of this bill in court. That would be good politics for me but bad policy.”

Opponents to the bill, however, worry about voter suppression and making it harder for people to vote in Kentucky. The ACLU of Kentucky says this law will “exacerbate the difficulties Kentuckians already face when voting.” While Gov. Andy Beshear did not take a specific stance on the bill when asked by reporters Wednesday morning instead saying he needed more time to look over the proposal but does not want to make it harder for people to vote.

“I want to make sure there aren’t unnecessary roadblocks towards voting, that doesn’t mean the people who are backing it are intending it to be that,” Beshear told reporters. “But I want to make sure when someone goes in to vote , with the world we live in, with all the information, with everything that’s online or in databases we ought to be able to make voting easier not harder.”

Adams maintains this law is not meant to suppress anyone’s vote.

“State’s that have passed photo ID, Georgia for example, actually saw minority turnout go up after they passed photo ID, “ Adams said. “We’ve gone out of our way to provide funding that will be added to the budget if this passes, to provide funding to make sure the circuit clerks can give these ID’s out for free—we aren’t suppressing anybody.”

 The ACLU however says in states where photo ID laws are implemented voter turnout decreases by 2-3% and they believe the General Assembly should be focused on making voting more accessible.

“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,” ACLU –KY Legal Director Corey Shapiro said in part in a statement.

Supporters of the measure say this bill is about bringing confidence back to Kentucky elections, however, when asked how many cases of voter fraud–by impersonation have been found in Kentucky–there hasn’t been any. Despite that, Adams and Mills maintain that it’s important to have this type of law enacted to ensure it doesn’t happen here and don’t think it’s a solution in search of a problem.

“I think it’s one aspect of the larger program, I think it would be foolish for us to pass 15 other laws or me to take other actions to stop vote fraud and leave this gapping vulnerability,” Adams said when asked. “Why would you front door unlocked at night and close all your windows and lock them, that’s just foolish.”

“Every election there is always a little bit of blurbs going on nationally or statewide, and it just increases that confidence if we’re requiring people to identify themselves with a photo before they vote,” Sen. Mills added.

 There has not been a fiscal impact statement submitted yet but Adams says he’s heard it could cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually but the ACLU says this number could be much higher pointing to Indiana who saw a $10 million price tag for free ID’s produced between 2007 to 2010.

If passed the law would not go into effect until the November election.