Voter ID bill gets favorable hearing

Kentucky LRC Public Information

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (left) and Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, answer questions Wednesday concerning Senate Bill 2, known as the “voter ID law,” during a meeting of the Senate State & Local Government Committee.

Republicans moved a bill through the Kentucky Senate on Thursday that would impose stricter voter identification requirements. The measure, one of the chamber's top priorities for the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly, was approved 29-9 along party lines.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Robby Mills, R-Henderson, would require a voter to present photographic identification at the poll. Kentucky already has a law that requires identification to vote, but it does not require photo IDs.

But Mills, who represents Caldwell County in Frankfort, said there are alternatives for those who don't have a photo ID, such as a driver's license.

"They may produce another form of ID such as a Social Security card, a credit or debit card, and affirm under penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote at the place where they are voting," he said.

A voter who comes to the polls with no ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, a process involving filling out a separate envelope before casting a separate ballot. The ballot would not count unless the voter visited the county clerk's office by the Friday after Election Day.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, spoke in opposition of SB 2.

"We want to encourage people to vote, not to discourage them to vote," he said. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, spoke in favor of the bill he co-sponsored.

"I want to debunk this red herring that a voter ID is going to suppress the vote," he said. "There was a study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research that between 2008 and 2016 voter ID laws 'had no negative effect on registration or turnout overall or for any specific group defined by race, gender, age or party affiliation.'"

Another provision of SB 2 would provide a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver's license. It currently costs $30 for that ID.

SB 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration. If the bill would become law, photo IDs would not be required for the May primary election but would be required for the November general election.

Kentucky Today contributed to this story.