Kentucky official pushes voter suppression bill that could help McConnell's campaign

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Secretary of State Michael Adams said he was 'a little concerned' about 'potentially foreign actors' interfering in the next election and suggested a voter ID law would stop them.

Kentucky's newly inaugurated secretary of state appeared to suggest this week that the real purpose of a strict voter ID law being rushed by the Legislature's Republican majority was to impact the state's 2020 U.S. Senate election.

Secretary of State Michael Adams (R), who was sworn in earlier this month, testified before the state Legislature's State & Local Government committee on Wednesday in favor of SB 2, which would require most citizens to provide a government issued photo identification to vote.

Adams' urged the Legislature to enact the law soon and implement it immediately, so it would be in operation this November.

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"I’m a little concerned about delaying it past [November] because functionally it would delay this until 2021 and then this is a 2022 bill," he said.

"My problem with that, I think, is: If there is any election we should be concerned about ballot integrity, it’s this one," he continued. "This is obviously a high-profile election. You’ve got a very competitive Senate seat, in a very competitive election for essentially determining which party controls the Senate. You’re going to see potentially foreign actors, you're going to potentially see domestic actors messing with this election. So to me, I think it’s better to have this going into effect for 2020."

The bill later passed out of the committee on a party-line vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has represented Kentucky in the Senate since 1985, is seeking a seventh six-year term this November. Polling shows he is one of the nation's least popular senators and several Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against him.

Though Kentucky is a Republican-leaning state, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear defeated then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R) last November.

Voter ID laws are a commonly used voter suppression tactic that make it more difficult for many people to exercise their right to vote and disproportionately harm Democrats and minorities.

Adams' claim on Wednesday that such a law is urgently needed to prevent in-person impersonation vote fraud is also dubious. Studies have shown Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to show up to the polls pretending to be another voter. Most experts agree that in-person voter fraud is extremely rare.

It is unclear how a voter ID law would stop foreign meddling. Adams admitted at Wednesday's hearing that he has no personal knowledge of impersonation being a real problem in Kentucky.

The secretary of state's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Adams' reasoning.

A former election lawyer for numerous Republican politicians, Adams previously worked directly for McConnell (R-KY). Through his Bluegrass Committee leadership PAC, McConnell gave $2,000 — the state's legal maximum — to Adams' 2019 primary campaign and another $2,000 to his general election race.

In a statement, Kentucky Democratic Party spokeswoman Marisa McNee claimed that Adams' testimony was proof he was pushing the ID law to help McConnell.

"Under pressure, Secretary Adams revealed the true reason for this unnecessary bill — it’s a Moscow Mitch protection plan,” McNee said, a reference to McConnell's repeated obstruction of election security legislation aimed to stop Russian interference in U.S. elections.

"Every Kentuckian should be concerned about this kind of outright politicization of the Office of the Secretary of State."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.