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New voter ID law may have large effect on Letcher County

On a mainly party-line vote, the Kentucky legislature voted Tuesday to override a veto from the governor and pass a law that will require Kentuckians to have a state-issued photo identification card to vote.

In the same session, the legislature made it harder to obtain an ID card by taking the service out of circuit clerks’ offices and moving it to regional offices.

Letcher County residents will now have to drive to Floyd County to renew driver’s licenses or state ID cards.

“Not only are clerks’ offices closed at this time as we battle the coronavirus in this state, but we also just voted to move to 12 regional offices our ability to get a driver’s license,” Minority Whip Angie Hatton, DWhitesburg, said. “For my people, that means driving at least an hour and a half.”

Democrats have fought the requirement in other states, saying such moves amount to voter suppression, preventing poor people and people of color, who vote overwhelming Democratic in national elections, from being able to cast a ballot.

The requirement for a state ID will begin with the general election in November when the office of President, one U.S. Senate seat, all 100 state House seats and half the 38 state Senators and are up for election.

Of the state Senators up for re-election, 11 are Republicans and five are Democrats. No incumbent is running in two districts.

The voter ID measure, known as Senate Bill 2, will require voters to present photographic identification at the polls.

“2020 is an important election year with many federal and state races,” Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, said before the Senate voted 27-6 to override the governor’s veto of SB 2. “The most recent elections in Kentucky have shown just how important a handful of votes are and how even one illegal vote … could change the outcome of an election.”

The House of Representatives followed the Senate with a 60-29 vote to override. The House has 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats. The Senate has 29 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

Another provision of SB 2 will provide a free stateissued 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.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, defended the override vote.

“There have been many comments made about this not being the time to debate the issue, and I’ll concede that,” he said, adding that the time was March 3 when SB 2 was originally passed. Osborne said the reason the bill was being debated today was because the governor vetoed it.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said SB 2 addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. He added that there is no evidence of inperson voter fraud during modern times in Kentucky.

“The American way is to encourage voting, not deter it,” Thomas said. “This bill will certainly deter people from voting.”

Mills said SB 2 just adds safeguards to the integrity of Kentucky’s elections. If a voter does not have a photo ID, Mills said the voter will be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. The bill will also allow poll workers to affirm, in writing, that they personally know a voter who has no form of ID.

Those provisions already existed in Kentucky law before passage of the new bill. The existing statute reads “Election officers shall confirm the identity of each voter by personal acquain- tance or by a document, such as a motor vehicle operator’s license, Social Security card, any identifi- cation card that has been issued by the county and which has been approved in writing by the State Board of Elections.

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