Kentucky Senate Passes Bill to Ban College IDs as Proof of Identity to Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Kentucky Senate passed a bill on Tuesday to ban university-issued photo IDs as an acceptable form of identification for voting, a move that has drawn scrutiny from the Kentucky secretary of state.

In a 27-6 party line vote, the Republican majority in the state Senate passed the bill, which would remove a student identification card issued by a university or college as an acceptable “proof of identification” to vote in the Bluegrass State. The bill would also ban the use of a credit or debit card as an acceptable secondary form of ID to verify a voter’s identity. 

The bill was first introduced on Jan. 5 by six GOP senators. Sen. Adrienne Southworth, one of the bill’s sponsors, said at the time of the bill’s introduction that student IDs don’t contain enough personal information for primary voter education. “People that have these government issued documents have had to do things like swear an oath, they have ethics codes or they’re employees — a lot of kind of surrounding stuff that goes around where we assume these people may be telling us the truth so we’re going to accept it on its face,” Southworth said, according to the Kentucky Lantern. 

Southworth also said that it’s easier to make fake student IDs than it is to make fake government IDs, and expressed concern that student IDs could lead to more voter fraud, according to Louisville Public Media. Banning student IDs as a valid form of identity to vote is gaining traction in the 2024 election cycle, with new or pending laws in Idaho and Ohio, among others. But numerous studies found that voter fraud in any form very rarely occurs. Lawsuits were filed in both Idaho and Ohio challenging the states’ student ID voting restrictions.

Despite support from every Republican senator, Michael Adams, Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state, sharply criticized the bill, saying that he worries it could alienate young voters. “As a Republican, Secretary Adams believes his party should be careful not to gratuitously alienate young voters like college students by taking away their ability to use college Photo IDs in the absence of any evidence they have been used fraudulently,” Michon Lindstrom, a spokesperson for Adams, said in a statement. 

Adams added that he worries the bill could jeopardize Kentucky’s already controversial and restrictive voter ID law. The law, passed in 2020 despite a veto from Gov. Andy BeShear (D), requires voters to show an ID — or a Social Security card or credit card and sign an affidavit to ensure they’re not lying about their identity — in order to cast a ballot. 

Adams said that he worries that the student ID bill could jeopardize the legality of the 2020 voter ID law. “Our Photo ID to Vote law was carefully drafted to ensure success against court challenges, and Secretary Adams was successful in three such challenges,” Lindstrom said

Read the bill here.

Track the status of the bill here.

Read more about the right-wing attack on youth voting rights here.