- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Kentucky’s newly passed law requiring voters to show photo identification places them in “dire and unnecessary risk” of contracting the novel coronavirus, according to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The complaint seeks to nullify the “deadly” and “dangerous” photo ID requirement in Senate Bill 2, which was passed last month by the Republican state legislature over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto, and allow vote-by-mail in the Nov. 3 election.

Other organizations involved in the lawsuit include the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, and the NAACP of Kentucky.

“The groups are challenging a number of requirements that would place Kentuckians at dire and unnecessary risk in order to vote, including a new onerous photo ID requirement that would increase Kentuckians’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 by forcing them to visit ID-issuing offices to exercise their right to vote, and the state’s failure to expand vote by mail beyond the June primary,” said the ACLU press release.

Under Senate Bill 2, which takes effect July 15, voters requesting mail-in absentee ballots must also include a copy of their photo ID with their applications, which “unreasonably burdens the fundamental right to vote of Kentuckians who are practicing recommended physical distancing,” said the release.

“Kentuckians should not be forced to choose between their health and their vote,” said ACLU attorney Ceridwen Cherry. “Kentucky can and should protect voters by eliminating the photo ID requirement and allowing vote by mail in the November election because the spread of COVID-19 will remain a risk.”

The ACLU has repeatedly challenged state voter-identification requirements, calling them unconstitutional barriers to voting, while Republicans have defended such laws as necessary to preserve ballot integrity and prevent voting fraud.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, who was elected last year on a promise to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat,” called the lawsuit an example of the “far left” seeking to have an “unelected federal judge rewrite our election laws.”

“If these self-described advocates for democracy actually believed in democracy, they would let the democratic process work and let elected officials make policy,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. “Instead, this lawsuit seeks to have lawmaking powers stripped from elected officials accountable to the people.”

The law requires voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting ballots and provides for free-of-charge personal identification cards for eligible voters without driver’s licenses.

The ACLU lawsuit argued that the voter-identification requirements “disproportionately impact older voters, voters with disabilities, black voters, and voters with underlying medical conditions.”

“We must stop Kentucky’s onerous — and now deadly — dangerous election rules from suppressing votes in November,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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