Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday vetoed a controversial bill that would have required people to show photo identification before they could vote in Kentucky elections.

In his veto message, Beshear wrote Senate Bill 2 “would create an obstacle to the ability of Kentuckians to exercise their right to vote, resulting in fewer people voting and undermining our democracy.”

“Furthermore, no documented evidence of recent voter fraud in the form of impersonation in Kentucky has been presented in support of Senate Bill 2 and, therefore, the legislation would be attempting to resolve a problem that does not exist,” Beshear wrote.

Finally, the governor observed that the shutdown of government offices due to the novel coronavirus epidemic means that Kentuckians without a valid driver’s license or other form of photo ID can’t easily obtain one in the near future.

The voter ID bill was a top priority of Senate Republican leaders and GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams. If voters did not have a valid photo ID but did have a credit card, debit card or Social Security card, the bill would have allowed them to sign an affidavit at the polls and cast a ballot.

“Even if you don’t think we have a big problem with this particular issue, we have to have public confidence in our election system,” Adams said earlier this year. “And so part of why I’m pushing this is to enhance that public confidence.”

Kentucky presently requires some form of identification to vote, but that can include a driver’s license, a credit card or mail with the voter’s address. Alternatively, poll workers can personally identify voters they know. Republican senators said existing law is not strict enough, although there have been no reported instances of in-person voter fraud.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol on April 13 to pass more legislation and act on Beshear’s vetoes. The House voted 58-to-25 to pass the voter ID bill on March 19 while the Senate voted 25-to-2. Those majorities would be enough to override Beshear’s veto if lawmakers can muster them again.


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