Scared of young voters, Repubs pass anti-college-ID bill Skip to content

Scared of young voters, Repubs pass anti-college-ID bill

They were okay with using a student ID to vote – until Andy Beshear won re-election.

2 min read

Senate Republicans have passed a bill that would keep students from using university-issued identification cards as their primary ID to vote.

Dare one suggest that the GOP is pushing the measure because en route to reelection, Gov. Andy Beshear carried every Kentucky county with a public university save one? 

SB 80 got a thumbs up in the upper chamber on a 27-7 party line vote. 

The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg) said her pet bill  is a “proactive” strike against voter fraud. Translation: make it harder for a bunch of college kids to cast Democratic ballots.

In 2022, Southworth, unsuccessful secretary of state candidate Steve Knipper, and John Birch Society field coordinator Jon Schrock barnstormed the state alleging widespread election cheating. They spun a “tale of Venezualeans, cybercrimes, long-dead voters and, well, just general craziness,” wrote the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth.

Right-wing Republicans have long seen higher education as a hellish incubator of liberalism where godless left-wing profs delight in turning innocent, God-fearing youngsters against their conservative homes, hearths, and churches. 

Even GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams is skeptical of the bill, but apparently because it might be unconstitutional, not because it’s another Republican voter suppression measure. “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,” McKenna Horsley wrote in the Kentucky Lantern. “He said photo ID laws in other states have been upheld if they permit university-issued IDs for proving a voter’s identity.”

I doubt Southworth would have introduced SB 80 had Republican Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron unseated Beshear. But herein lies the rub: the governor won a second term by a comfortable five-percent margin.

I don’t know if there are surveys that break down the demographics of the Beshear vote. But nationwide, college students tend to vote Democratic.

Anyway, a former Democratic strategist thinks Southworth’s bill is mainly aimed at one county: Warren, where county seat Bowling Green is home to Western Kentucky University. With an enrollment of around 20,000, WKU is the state’s third largest public university. (The two largest, the University of Kentucky (Lexington) and University of Louisville, are in reliably blue territory.)

Warren County could have gone either way, said the ex-strategist.  Hence, Team Beshear saw Warren as crucial to their guy’s reelection, and hence, Southworth trotted out her bill.

“‘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 in The Lantern. “‘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.”

That was, of course, before Team Red got scared that too many of those liberal college kids came through for the captain of Team Blue.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY