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Kentucky bill would downgrade college IDs as voter identification

A bill that advanced in Kentucky's legislature would downgrade college IDs from a primary to a secondary form of documentation for the purpose of verifying a voter's identity.

College-issued student ID cards won't carry the same weight as a form of photo identification at polling places if a bill that advanced Tuesday in Kentucky's legislature becomes law.

The Senate voted to revise the state's voter identification law by removing those student IDs from the list of primary documents to verify a voter's identity.

The bill — which would still allow those student IDs as a secondary form of identification — won Senate passage on a 27-7 vote and heads to the House. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.


Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, a key supporter of the state's 2020 voter ID law, has expressed opposition to the new legislation.

Supporters of the bill insist that the change would be no impediment to students' ability to vote.

Students have other forms of primary documents, such as a driver's license, to present at polling places, they said. If the bill becomes law, college ID cards could be used as a secondary form of identification enabling them to cast a ballot after attesting to their identity and eligibility to vote, supporters said.

"Anybody in college can read that affidavit and sign it and vote," Republican Sen. Gex Williams said. "So there is absolutely, positively no impediment to voting with a student ID as a secondary ID."

Republican Sen. Adrienne Southworth, the bill's lead sponsor, said it makes a needed change to tighten the list of primary documents, which enable Kentuckians to "show it, no questions asked" at polling places.

"We need to be more careful about what we just have listed out there as approved without question," Southworth said in an interview afterward. "It’s our job to make the election system as good as possible."

Adams — whose mantra while in office has been to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat — has raised concerns about the bill's potential impact on the voter ID law enacted in 2020. Adams has said the voter ID law was carefully crafted to try to ensure success against any court challenges.

"Secretary Adams is concerned that if this bill becomes law it could put the current photo ID law in jeopardy," his spokeswoman, Michon Lindstrom, said in a statement Tuesday.

Senators opposing the bill said the Bluegrass State's election system is working well and expressed concerns about what impact the change would have on voter participation among college students.

"We are sending the wrong signal to our young people," said Sen. Gerald Neal, the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

Kentucky has avoided the pitched fights over election rules that have erupted elsewhere in the country. During that time, Kentucky successfully expanded voting and avoided claims of significant voter irregularity, Democratic Sen. Karen Berg said Tuesday. In 2021, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed GOP-passed legislation allowing three days of no-excuse, early in-person voting before Election Day.

The new bill would make another change to Kentucky's election law by no longer allowing credit or debit cards to be used as a secondary document to prove a voter’s identity.

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