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Kentucky lawmakers override veto of voter ID measure

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kentucky swept aside the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill to require the state’s residents to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Votes to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto easily cleared the GOP-led Senate and House as lawmakers reconvened Tuesday for a wrap-up session amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky promptly said it will consider filing legal action to try to halt the measure.

The measure would require Kentucky residents to produce a photo ID when voting, with limited exceptions, starting with the November election.

The bill’s supporters have noted that a photo ID already is required for many other transactions, including opening a bank account, cashing a check or picking up sports tickets at will-call.

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Republican Sen. Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, said Tuesday that it would add “guardrails in our voting procedures that will help cure vulnerabilities that exist.”

The bill’s opponents pointed to the absence of voter impersonation cases in Kentucky. They said the photo ID requirement will reduce turnout among minorities, the poor, the elderly and disabled voters. Currently, Kentucky voters are asked to show identification but it doesn’t have to be a photo ID.

In trying to block the measure, the governor said it would create an obstacle to voting, resulting in fewer people casting ballots and “undermining our democracy.”

In his recent veto message, Beshear also objected to the bill’s timing, coming in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The offices where people could obtain a photo ID needed to vote are currently closed and it’s uncertain when they will reopen, the governor said.

Mills discounted that argument Tuesday during the Senate debate to override the veto.

“I am sure that we will have those clerks’ offices open and doing business later in the spring or summer,” he said. “And there’s going to be ample opportunities for folks that do not have a valid photo ID to obtain that free photo ID that is allowed in this piece of legislation.”

The bill’s leading supporters include Kentucky’s new Republican secretary of state, Michael Adams, who campaigned on the issue en route to his election victory last year.

Under the measure, people lacking their photo ID at the polls could vote by provisional ballot and later produce that ID to enable their ballot to be counted. Or voters could cast their ballots if recognized by an election officer, who would have to sign a document affirming to knowing the voter.

ACLU of Kentucky legal director Corey Shapiro denounced the proposal Tuesday as a “voter suppression measure in the name of election security.” He also expressed concern about the bill’s “rushed timeline,” coming months before a hotly contested general election.

“We are currently evaluating whether to seek court intervention to make sure every eligible voter can still cast a ballot under this oppressive measure,” he said in a statement.

In November, Kentuckians will vote for a president and decide one of the nation’s highest-profile campaigns: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid for reelection.

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