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Kentucky Voter ID Bill Advances, With Changes

Josh James

A hot-button bill requiring photo ID at the polls is changing shape as the state's new Republican secretary of state moves to incorporate suggestions from critics, but opponents maintain the measure still sets up new roadblocks to voting.  

Senate Bill 2 moved through committee on an 8-3 vote, but not without some substantial revisions ⁠— removing requirements that the ID have an expiration date and that "reasonable impediment" statements sent with absentee votes be notarized. The former provision would have prevented some university students from using their IDs to vote.

But the biggest change would affect voters who show up with non-photo IDS. Under the previous version, those voters would need to submit provisional ballots and then visit county clerks offices within three days to fill out reasonable impediment forms. The latest version of the bill permits voters with credit, debit, or social security cards to vote normally as long as they sign an "affirmation."

"I listened to opponents and critics and I encourage the Senate to listen to opponents and critics," Secretary of State Michael Adams told reporters. "Obviously we expect them to maintain their opposition and we respect that opinion."

Adams heard directly from those constituents on his way out of committee, as he was confronted by Tayna Fogle with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

"I want my kids and my grandkids to know what democracy looks like," she told Adams. "It didn't look like democracy today in there."

Critics did applaud the secretary's willingness to meet with detractors and work to alter the bill's language, but they're still calling the measure a "solution in search of a problem." They note the lack of in-person voter fraud cases in the commonwealth, which the secretary has acknowledged.

Corey Shapiro with the ACLU said Adams' push to implement the changes by the November elections carries its own risks.

"We simply think that rushing to get this done in such an important election is going to cause significant voter confusion and will definitely lead to lower turnout, which we're very concerned about," Shapiro warned, "and also the fact that it will absolutely disproportionately impact minorities, the elderly, and rural voters."

Adams contends it's better to act now to increase confidence in election integrity while voters' focus is on politics and the upcoming presidential and U.S. Senate contests. The photo ID request is reasonable, he said, in an age of voter apprehension about foreign and domestic interference.

"If they really think that this disenfranchises people, they should follow their conscience and prohibit the demand of a photo ID in every other pursuit of life," the secretary argued.

The ID measure now moves to the full Senate.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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