Kentucky voter ID bill for voting clears Senate committee

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Republican-led Senate panel on Wednesday loosened a bill requiring voters to produce a photo ID by adding other acceptable forms of identification. The proposal now heads to the full Senate.

Under the revised version, people lacking photo IDs could present other forms of identification — debit or credit cards or Social Security cards — and still be allowed to vote. They would have to affirm in writing that they're qualified to vote at that polling place.

The changes, which also would allow voters with expired photo IDs to cast a ballot, left the bill's opponents unswayed. They said the GOP-backed proposal attempts to prevent a form of voter fraud that doesn't exist in Kentucky and would create potential roadblocks for some people to vote.

The revised version cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee on a party-line vote with three Democratic members opposed.

The bill, if passed into law, would take effect in time for this year's November election, when Kentuckians will help choose a president and also decide on one of the nation's highest-profile campaigns : Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's bid for reelection.

The bill's supporters insisted that stricter election standards are needed.

“I think if there are going to be hijinks in our election, this is going to be the year," Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican who supports the bill, told reporters after the committee hearing.

Republican Sen. Robby Mills of Henderson, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it's aimed at making sure that “voters truly are who they say they are."

Corey Shapiro, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, criticized the timetable, which he said would create a “new, complicated scheme" for the November election.

“This simply cannot be done and the court would likely look unfavorably on such a rushed implementation," he told the committee.

The ACLU says it is withholding judgment on a potential court challenge to the photo ID measure as the bill winds through the legislature.

Adams, who as the state's new chief elections officer helped craft the bill, said it would achieve part of his campaign platform.

“We don't want to disenfranchise anybody," he said. “We don't want to inconvenience anybody. I ran on a platform of making it easy to vote and hard to cheat."

Adams acknowledged that he wasn't aware of any convictions for voter impersonation in Kentucky. The panel's Democrats pounced on that as proof that the bill is aimed at a problem that doesn't exist. Sen. Denise Harper Angel called it “a solution in search of a problem."

Opponents also said the bill would create a new obstacle to voting, especially for some disabled, elderly or minority residents who might have difficulty obtaining the proper documents. The state should instead be expanding the hours polls are open on Election Day and taking other steps to make voting easier, they said.

“If you want more people to do something, you make it easier," said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville. “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."

Adams said the state should act proactively to head off any such problems at the ballot box.

Adams told reporters that 98% of voters possess photo IDs when showing up at the polls. The fraction of voters lacking such identification would be allowed to vote by presenting other forms of identification and affirming their qualifications to vote at that polling place.

People showing up at the polls without any forms of ID would be allowed to cast provisional ballots. They would have to present approved forms of ID at the county clerk's office in the days following the election. The bill also would allow adults to obtain a free ID if they can't afford a photo ID.

Kentucky currently requires voters to produce some form of identification, such as a driver’s license, a credit card or mail with a person's address.

___

The legislation is Senate Bill 2.