FRANKFORT, Ky. — Voters in Kentucky are one step closer to being required to present a photo ID to cast a ballot.
The Senate Standing Committee on State and Local Government passed Senate Bill 2 with a vote of 8-3 Wednesday.
The version presented to the committee has several changes from the original bill.
Secretary of State Michael Adams says the changes made to the bill were done at the request of several organizations.
“I listen to opponents and critics, and I encourage the Senate to listen to opponents and critics and obviously we expect them to maintain their opposition and we respect that opinion but they also have a lot of suggestions we’ve accepted,” Adams told reporters.
One of the bigger changes allows for people to use a social security or credit or debit card instead of a photo id as long as they sign a voter affirmation statement identifying a “reasonable impediment” to having a photo ID.
Those without any type of ID can cast a provisional ballot but will have to return to the county clerk’s office within three days of the election with an ID and sign a statement declaring their reasonable impediment.
Those impediments include lack of transportation, inability to afford a copy of a birth certificate or other documents needed to show proof of identification, work schedule, lost or stolen ID, disability or illness, family responsibilities, proof an ID has been applied for but not yet obtained, or religious exception to being photographed.
Adams says the reasonable impediment clause was modeled after Texas’ law. Opponents, however, including the ACLU of Kentucky, want the list of impediments to be a catch-all.
“In Texas, there is language to make clear that the voter should be able to determine him or herself what is a reasonable impediment and that shouldn’t be questioned,” said Corey Shapiro, ACLU-KY Legal Director.
Another change will allow expired photo ID’s to be accepted by county clerks.
Many opposed to the bill also expressed concerns with how quickly the legislation would be enacted, instead of asking it not be enacted until after the 2020 election.
“We simply think that rushing to get it done in such an important election is going to cause significant voter confusion and will definitely lead to a lower turnout,” said Shapiro. “It will absolutely disproportionately impact minorities, the elderly and rural voters and those without access to transportation, we think slowing this down until 2021 or 2022 will make it a better path to take given a lack of a problem.”
Secretary Adams says given the high profile of the 2020 election it’s more of a need to have this law in place by November.
“I think if there were going to be high chinks in our elections this going to be the year, we’ve got high profile elections, we’ve got competitive elections, and we’ve got high priority elections, we’re a national center I think for anyone that wants to do harm to our elections,” Adams said. “To me, it would be shocking to not have this in place by 2020.”
Adams also doesn’t believe it will be hard to get the message out to voters by November.
“We’re talking about a bill in January for a November election,” Adams said.
“And everyone is paying attention right now to politics they won’t be necessarily next year, to me pushing a public service campaign next year with no elections doesn’t make sense.”
Democrats opposed to the bill say Kentucky has had no case of in-person voter fraud so this change is not necessary.
“We’ve heard testimony today that they think government should get out in front of problem before it occurs, there is no problem. This is a solution in search of a problem. We have now the second secretary of state since I’ve been here and many county clerks saying we don’t have a problem in Kentucky of in-person voter fraud,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. “If you want more people to do something you make it easier if you want fewer people to do something you make it harder. I think this bill is putting up roadblocks in front of people that will prevent them from voting.”
This is an argument that Adams disagreed with citing a need to ensure election and security and noted roughly 98 percent of Kentuckians already use their driver’s license to identify themselves at the polls.
“In a state with close elections, competitive elections, I think we’ve got to confirm those two percent,” he said.
The bill could come up for a vote on the Senate floor as early as Thursday.