When I started the #BadBillWatch last week, little did I guess I'd have so much material to work with in so little time.
But on just the second day of the General Assembly, there's a bill that solves a problem that exists only in the minds of Republicans up for re-election.
I'm speaking of course of Senate Bill 2, the voter ID law championed by our new Secretary of State Michael Adams. The number 2 denotes that it's a high priority to the Senate, surpassed only by the non-existent threat of sanctuary cities outlawed in Senate Bill 1.
Let's start off by saying there are nearly no examples of voter fraud with people using fake IDs in Kentucky or anywhere else. Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, has been tracking alleged fraud since 2008 and found 31 instances of potential fraud out of 1 billion votes cast. Fraud that Kentucky has experienced in the past, such as vote-buying, would not be stopped with a photo I.D.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, requires anyone who votes to have a photo ID that is issued by the U.S. or Kentucky government. That includes new, free identification cards that can be issued by circuit clerks' offices or college student IDs, if they have an expiration date on them. As University of Kentucky legal scholar Josh Douglas pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread about the bill, UK IDs do not.
If you don't have an ID when you show up to vote, you have to fill out a provisional ballot. But for that to count, you have to go to the county clerk's office the Friday after the election to fill out an affidavit of why you didn't have an ID. So already, only a third to half of registered voters bother to show up on Election Day. Can you imagine a half-hearted voter going through these hoops?
But let's be honest about what this bill would do. These kinds of bills, which have popped up all over the country, predominantly target the elderly, the poor and minorities, who may not have access to the kinds of documents they need to get a photo I.D., or the transportation they need to get to the voting box one day and the county clerk's office the next.
Corey Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU, said a legal fight against a restrictive voter ID law in Texas found it was 195 percent more likely that registered Hispanic voters lack a photo ID. That percentage was 305 percent more likely for black voters.
"This will disproportionately impact minorities and folks living in poverty," Shapiro said. "There is no reason to be making this a priority issue."
It will also cost money that Kentucky, according to our esteemed General Assembly, doesn't have. Indiana, which passed a voter ID bill in 2005, found that between 2007 and 2010, the state spent $10 million to produce the free voter IDs, and $2.2 million on voter outreach and education.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said he thinks Secretary Adams is sincere in his belief, ardently voiced during his campaign, that voter ID laws will improve election security.
"But to gain my support, Secretary Adams will have to show me a problem we're solving," Blevins said. "We're spending money on a problem that doesn't exist.
"Further, this appears to possibly disenfranchise poor and house-bound individuals, because although the IDs are said to be free, you still have to spend transportation, time and money to go to the clerk's office to get the ID," he said.
As Douglas has also pointed out, Kentucky's voting problem is not that too many people vote, it's that not enough of them do. We are one of the few states left that opens polls only for 12 hours only on Election Day, and forbids voting by mail or at any point before the election.
Douglas went on to say that he hopes Adams will work with those who are concerned about the bill to make it more workable. Let's second that hope.
There's little doubt this law will pass with a veto-proof majority in House and Senate. A court challenge would then force the state to spend some of its precious and dwindling resources in court on a problem that doesn't exist instead of legislators working on the many, many problems that do. Many of those problems stem from the legislature's unwillingness to address issues of substance like pension reform, drug abuse, tax reform, education, child abuse, and healthcare.
On Wednesday, Senate President Robert Stivers said Senate Bills 1 and 2 polled well with voters. Well, that's nice, as 2020 is an election year for many legislators. But here's another idea: What if Stivers asked voters in his district whether they'd prefer a Voter ID bill or some programs that would pull their counties out of decades of abject poverty? How do you think they would answer then?