Kentucky GOP blocks governor from making voting safe during pandemic

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Gov. Andy Beshear has filed suit against Kentucky House and Senate leadership to have their moves declared unconstitutional.

Kentucky's GOP-controlled Legislature on Tuesday stripped the state's Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his power to expand access to voting by mail in emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic in the latest move by Republicans to restrict access to the ballot box.

Beshear had vetoed S.B. 1, a bill introduced in the state Senate by Republicans in late January that limited his ability to issue emergency executive orders and barred him from changing election procedures during an emergency. But the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode the veto, officially eliminating Beshear's ability to increase access to mail-in ballots, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

Beshear has filed a lawsuit in state court against Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the leaders of the House and Senate seeking to have S.B. 1 and other bills passed by the Legislature ruled unconstitutional, claiming that "if allowed to take effect [they] will cause significant harm to the Governor’s constitutional duty to respond [to] COVID-19 and the overall public health during the pandemic."

S.B. 1 is one of 106 bills Republicans have introduced in state legislatures across the country in January aimed at restricting voting rights in the wake of Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Most of those bills seek to cut back on voters' ability to cast ballots by mail, either by limiting the number of people who can use the method or by putting in place impediments to actually voting by mail, such as requiring photocopies of ID cards or banning ballot drop boxes.

Voting by mail has long been seen as a secure and effective way of expanding access to the ballot box. But Trump attacked it in 2020, lying about it being rife with fraud and turning Republican voters against it.

Now Republican-controlled legislatures are using those lies to try to pass voter suppression laws that make it harder to vote by mail, or, in the case of Kentucky, to take away the governor's power to expand access to the voting method.

In Georgia, Republicans in the Legislature introduced a bill that would force voters to provide copies of their ID to vote by mail twice in the process of voting by mail: once when applying for a mail-in ballot, and again when returning it. Voting rights activists say if the bill passes, it will disproportionally hurt voters of color.

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature introduced a bill to get rid of a list voters can use to sign up to receive a mail-in ballot automatically in every election.

The moves to restrict voting by mail come after both Georgia and Arizona voted for a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time in decades, and elected Democrats to both of their United States Senate seats in 2020.

Voting rights activists have promised to challenge any new laws restricting voting access.

"The @GOP is planning an attack on voting rights in state legislatures around the country. We must be prepared to fight back in state houses, the public square and in the courts," Marc Elias, a lawyer who specializes in election law and election-related cases for Democrats, tweeted on Tuesday.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.