WITT: Voter ID legislation is not needed in Ky.
Last week, I briefly mentioned Senate Bill 2, one of the bills emerging from the Kentucky legislature following a veto override.
This bill is the one dealing with requirements for voter ID, and was overwhelmingly supported and sponsored by Republicans. The override vote in the Kentucky Senate was 57-40 (in a senate composed of 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats), and that means that, most likely, every Republican save one voted to override, and all Democrats voted nay.
If nothing else, these votes more likely demonstrate the dichotomy that exists in government rather than the validity of the bills being considered.
One would have to be a masochist to want to read the 57 pages of the bill, but even reading the two-and-a-half page summary shows that the new bill amends at least 35 sections of Kentucky Revised Statute.
Perhaps the first question any sane individual would ask is, “Why are 35 sections needed to define voting procedures?”
More important is the question of why we need a voter ID law at all.
The simple answer is: We don’t.
Forty-three states currently have some form of voter ID law. Forty-two of those laws were passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, and 29 of those laws have been passed since 2000, which just happened to be the year Republicans only gained the White House because of a decision of the Supreme Court.
Is it because Democrats aren’t concerned about voter fraud? No.
It’s because the national Republican Party has found, over the past 20 years, that voter fraud legislation is an effective way of keeping control of the voter lists and keeping voters inimical to its agenda unable to vote.
The boogeyman of voter fraud has been trotted out during election cycles for more than 20 years, and yet, during that period, there has never been any empirical evidence voter identification fraud has either been prevalent or even instrumental in affecting election results.
In 2016, the North Carolina Board of Elections analysis of 4.8 million votes found only one vote that could have been stopped by their voter ID law.
Another study of nationwide voting from 2000 to 2014 found only 31 cases of voter impersonation in 1 billion votes cast.
A Google search of voting irregularities in Kentucky could not find any indictments for voter identification fraud; of the rare cases of election problems in this state, virtually all resulted from vote buying, a practice which is obviously not going to be stopped through the use of more restrictive voter identification rules.
There are some sections within SB2 that are desirable, such as some relaxed provisions for absentee voting and early voting, but these provisions could have easily been accomplished without the specter of voter identification fraud creeping into the mix.
Only time will tell if this new law has any detrimental effect on the number of voters who go to the polls in Kentucky.
If it does, it would be most unfortunate considering the dismally low turnouts this state sees in nearly every election.
But make no mistake, the history of voter identification laws in this country is a history replete with examples of voter suppression and attempts to control who is able to vote, with those efforts aimed primarily at the poor and minorities.
That history further illustrates that these laws have absolutely no effect on deterring any illegal activity, because that alleged activity is virtually non-existent.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.