Breaking: Kentucky Senate Votes to Limit College IDs as Primary Voter Identification

Kentucky residents will no longer be able to use university-issued identification cards as their primary voter ID, according to a bill approved by the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams condemned Senate Bill 80 in an interview with the Kentucky Lantern on Tuesday, prior to the Senate vote.

Regarding the forthcoming presidential election, Adams stated that it is critical to “have a law that is actually enforceable” and not overturned in court. He stated that picture ID requirements in other states have been upheld if they allow university-issued IDs to prove a voter’s identification.

“To me, this is a lot of theater and you got a sponsor, obviously, who wants to get attention for making a scene versus actually legislating like an adult and passing laws that will be upheld by courts,” Adams told the audience. “That’s my goal.”

Kentucky’s current photo ID requirement, passed in 2020, has faced legal challenges, but Adams believes the law is still acceptable as it stands. No MPs objected to incorporating university-issued IDs in the statute when it was passed, he added.

On Tuesday, all members of Senate GOP leadership voted in favor of SB 80, introduced by Senator Adrienne Southworth. Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown explained his decision, saying he had voted for and supported Adams in previous elections, but that “doesn’t mean he’s right all the time.”

“At the end of the day, as a member of the executive branch … whoever is in that office is charged with implementing the policy of the General Assembly,” Thayer went on to say.

Seven Senate Democrats voted against the bill, while 27 Republicans backed it.

If passed, the law will make identification cards supplied by universities and colleges to students and workers ineligible as the main proof of identification at the polls.

Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, stated that the proposal is not about “removing ways for people to authenticate their identity,” but rather “determining where we place weight on which IDs people are bringing” to vote.

She has previously maintained that such IDs contain less personal information than government-issued IDs used for primary voter identification, such as driver’s licenses. Her measure would allow voters to use their college IDs at the polls, but they would also have to sign an affidavit stating that they met the voting qualifications.

Adams had earlier urged Republicans against “gratuitously” alienating young voters by removing their option to use college picture IDs after the Senate State and Local Government Committee approved the legislation. Democrats often mentioned Adams’ opposition to the package in their floor comments Tuesday.

While Adams opposes Southworth’s bill, he does favor House Bill 374, a similar legislation in the House that would eliminate just debit or credit cards as a secondary ID method. Southworth’s plan would also prohibit credit or debit cards from being used as a secondary form of voter identification.

Adams referred to Southworth’s previous testimony against the 2020 law, saying “it’s not accidental” that she is now pushing a bill that could potentially repeal the statute. He had posted Southworth’s previous testimony online during the recent committee meeting.

“This is someone who has been hostile to photo ID to vote her whole career,” she remarked. “It’s not an accident that now she’s trying to pass a law that would weaken our law and get it potentially struck down.”

When asked if she was aware of anyone fraudulently voting in Kentucky with a college ID, Southworth previously stated that she did not have access to election fraud investigations. Adams, the state’s chief election commissioner, claimed there is “no evidence of any fraud being committed with fake college IDs” in the Commonwealth.

When asked by a reporter to react to Adams’ claim that there is no evidence of voter fraud using college IDs, Southworth said Tuesday that “that’s really not the focus of the bill anyway” and that lawmakers are being proactive.

“The current system is based on honor,” she explained. “As long as you don’t do anything totally out of line, nobody’s going to blink.”

Southworth has openly rejected election results and spread misinformation about election security. In previous years, she accompanied future secretary of state candidate Steve Knipper, who was defeated by Adams, on a “Restore Election Integrity” tour, citing disproven claims. Adams and Southworth have long disagreed over election laws.

This session, Southworth has filed numerous proposals aiming at modifying election regulations, including one requiring voting equipment to contain only elements manufactured in the United States and another requiring a “risk-limiting audit” after polls close to certify an election.

Southworth also recently filed a resolution urging the United States Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act of 2005, which requires numerous pieces of identification for a REAL ID driver’s license. The resolution claims that there is a security risk because a national database has been built containing personal information about those ID holders.

When asked what he thought of Senate leadership bringing Southworth’s bill ahead, Adams stated that he still respects the Senate because of its earlier support for the photo ID law, and senators have the authority to change laws they pass.

“My hope is the state as a whole won’t turn from a respected official who just got elected by a landslide again and instead turn to a crackpot who’s said some really outrageous, destructive things; has harassed our county clerks for years; harassed me and my staff for years,” Adams said in a statement. “I hope that she’s not the voice of reason on election issues in Kentucky.”

Adams recently earned a second term and received the most votes in the state in November.


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