Oppose voter suppression bills

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2020

I participated in Sunday’s Selma Commemorative March in Frankfort, which honored those involved in the March 7, 1965, march that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”  That march ended when peaceful protestors, mostly African-American, were blasted with fire hoses, tear gas and set upon by police dogs and batons.

Unlike Selma, this Sunday’s march did not encounter any police or public resistance. The focus of this march was on voting and voting rights. Efforts are underway in the Kentucky legislature to suppress voting.

Following Gov. Beshear’s executive order reinstating voting rights to over 140,000 non-violent felons, the Republican legislature is fast-tracking several bills.

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Senate Bill 2 would mandate Kentucky voters show photo identification to vote in-person or absentee. Kentucky already has a voter ID law, but this bill would narrow the types of ID that can be used to vote. 

Republican lawmakers argue the law should be enacted before the 2020 election to guard against virtually non-existent voter fraud. They also say it’s not hard to get an ID and that the state will provide funding to help people pay. Research shows that voter ID laws reduce turnout among low-income and nonwhite voters — the same population that disproportionately fills Kentucky’s prisons.

Kentucky does not have any system in place to help those leaving state prison obtain a valid form of state ID. People returning from prison are more likely to be low-income or housing unstable and may lack the transportation necessary to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or government agency to obtain a valid ID. 

One solution to locating all the forms of ID required to obtain a license, would be for the DMV to accept release paperwork from the Department of Corrections as proof of residency. It provides an individual’s name, address, photo, birthdate, and a date of expiration 30 days after release.

SB 62 restores zero voting rights but grants the General Assembly the authority to establish standards for giving felons the right to vote.

In contrast, HB 6 is a clean version of the Voting Rights bill with no exclusions and would send an amendment to voters for ratification. Everyone gets their right to vote after they’ve completed their prison time, probation and/or parole.  

Please contact Rep. Elliott through the Legislative hotline (800) 372-7181 and tell him to vote NO on SB 2 and SB 62 and YES on HB6. Help end these attacks on voting rights.

Julie Pease