Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature overrode a veto of a new voter ID law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, setting the stage for the requirement to be enacted for the November general election.
“I think that this is a decision being made in a world like we don’t have an international health pandemic,” Beshear said Tuesday during a news briefing, noting that the government offices that typically issue identifications are closed. “Can’t [Republicans] at least wait until the next session when we’re not facing this? . . . If you want to pass a voter ID bill, that’s fine, but let’s do it outside the coronavirus.”
GOP legislators argued that the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot would prevent voter fraud, and they celebrated it as the fulfillment of a longtime campaign promise. Opponents countered that Republicans cannot cite a specific example of in-person voter fraud in Kentucky to support the law, which includes limited exceptions.
“This bill will build confidence in KY’s election process and will ensure that every [Kentuckian] has a photo ID,” tweeted state Sen. Robby Mills (R), a sponsor of the measure.
“Today was a great day . . . Conservative agendas are still winning, & elections matter!” tweeted another sponsor, state Sen. Damon Thayer (R).
The measure, known as SB2, emerged last month as a leading example of Republican efforts to impose additional voting restrictions at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has already made typical voting practices nearly impossible. Around the country, election officials from both parties are taking steps to make voting easier, such as expanding access to absentee voting.
[As coronavirus creates ‘unprecedented obstacles’ to voting, Kentucky GOP takes step to add another: voter ID]
Kentucky’s November vote will draw particular attention because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is up for reelection.
After Beshear’s veto on April 3, an override was all but assured because of the legislature’s Republican supermajorities. On Tuesday, the override passed 27 to 6 in the Senate and 60 to 29 in the House and was signed by Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, a Republican.
“After nearly 2 years campaigning around KY for a Photo ID to Vote law, and 5 months helping to draft/negotiate one, tonight I had the honor to sign it,” Adams tweeted, noting that in Kentucky, the secretary of state signs veto overrides.
“Amazing what a constitutional officer can achieve when he treats the legislature with respect,” Adams wrote in an apparent jab at Beshear.
The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was considering legal action “to make sure every eligible voter can still cast a ballot under this oppressive measure.”
“This new law is fundamentally incompatible with the ongoing pandemic,” Corey Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement. He noted that the law will require each voter who wants an absentee ballot to photocopy their ID.
“This law will make voting more difficult, and potentially dangerous, for any Kentuckian who does not feel safe leaving their home during this pandemic — even for those who currently have a valid photo ID,” he said.
Kentucky had recorded more than 2,200 cases of covid-19 and more than 100 deaths as of Tuesday evening.
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