We claim we don’t like to say, “I told you so.” But we do, of course.
In April, 2021, I wrote in a Courier-Journal op-ed: “So, while Republicans in Kentucky made it easier to vote because they thought it benefited them, you can bet that if the Democrats, with a big boost from minorities, start significantly rebounding in Kentucky, GOP voter ‘reform’ will swiftly become impermanent, and Republican lawmakers will lose no time restricting minority voting.”
At that time, several Republican-majority legislatures in states with large minority populations had passed neo-Jim Crow voter suppression laws. Kentucky is less than 9 percent Black, so GOP lawmakers saw no need to curb minority voting.
But last November, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was reelected governor by a hefty five percentage points. And — I told you so — here comes a voter restriction law, one aimed at college kids.
“Kentuckians could no longer use university-issued identification cards as their primary voter ID under a bill that cleared the Republican-controlled Senate Tuesday along party lines,” McKenna Horsely wrote in Tuesday’s Kentucky Lantern.
“Some well-intentioned liberals are praising Kentucky Republican lawmakers for making it easier to vote in the Bluegrass State, instead of passing laws aimed at suppressing minority votes, most of which go to Democrats,” I also wrote in the C-J.
“They’d never admit it, of course. But the Republicans approved voting ‘reform’ legislation because it benefited them,” I continued, backing myself up with a quote from former Louisville Courier-Journal Editor David Hawpe: “Red [Republican] voters liked being able to vote as they did, and they and party leaders liked the outcome.”
GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams was especially gung-ho for the 2021 “reform.” But even he’s skeptical of Senate Bill 80, the measure to nix student IDs for voting.
Here’s more from Horsely: “Looking to the upcoming presidential election, Adams said it is important to ‘have a law that actually is enforceable’ and not struck down in court. He said photo ID laws in other states have been upheld if they permit university-issued IDs for proving a voter’s identity.
“‘To me, this is a lot of theater and you got a sponsor, obviously, who wants to get attention for making a scene versus actually legislating like an adult and passing laws that will be upheld by courts,’ Adams said. “‘That’s my goal.’”
Horsely also wrote, “Kentucky’s current photo ID law, which was passed in 2020, has faced some legal challenges, but Adams said the law has been defensible as it is. No lawmakers objected to including university-issued IDs in the law at the time it was adopted, he added.”
Though an election eve poll had Beshear tied with Republican Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron, he won with surprising ease. Apparently, GOP bigwigs crunched the numbers and discovered that the incumbent fared especially well among college-age voters, whom the GOP has long suspected of being irredeemably liberal. Take it from an old guy who’s left of liberal: Beshear’s a moderate.
It seems unlikely the Democrats will come anywhere close to repeating Beshear’s success at the polls come November. But should the governor’s party do better than expected, you can bet the GOP will further backtrack on election “reform.”