LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Whether Kentuckians should show official mug shots before voting has surfaced as a divisive issue in the face-off for secretary of state.
Republican candidate Bill Johnson supports passing a new law requiring would-be voters to present photo identification at the polling station. He sees the stricter standard as a "common-sense security measure" to prevent fraud.
His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, responds that state law has worked by requiring voters to show a non-photo ID or be recognized by precinct officers. Using her own family as an example, she claims the new standard would present a hardship and deter some people from voting.
"I don't think we need to tell my grandmother who's 91 years old that she has to purchase a government-issued ID before she gets to vote on election day at the same precinct she's been at for 40 years," Grimes said. "It's in essence a poll tax. It's taking us backwards."
Johnson doesn't see how it would be a detriment to voting access. He said a picture ID is already required to do many routine things in today's society. For those who don't have one, a system could easily be set up to provide them a photo ID, he said.
"The concern outweighs any inconvenience of having to show a picture ID," he said.
The two candidates are competing in the Nov. 8 election to replace Elaine Walker, who was appointed secretary of state early this year after Republican Trey Grayson resigned in the midst of his second term to become director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics.
Walker ran for a full term but was defeated by Grimes in the spring Democratic primary.
The secretary of state oversees elections for public offices and the incorporation of businesses in Kentucky.
Grimes is a first-time candidate whose upbringing was immersed in politics. Her father, Jerry Lundergan, is a former state lawmaker and ex-chairman of the state Democratic Party. She remembers walking neighborhoods as a girl in support of get-out-the-vote campaigns.
Johnson came to politics later in life after careers as a Navy officer and a business executive. He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate last year.
Both candidates talk about making the secretary of state's office an easier place for businesses to cut through the maze of filings.
Johnson, 45, points to his private sector experience, where he focused on information technology, as a plus for the office.
Grimes, 32, said her experience as a business attorney in Lexington gives her the savvy to create a business-friendly office.
"The secretary of state is the first face all businesses see when they come into Kentucky," Grimes said.
The two differ on a range of election-related issues.
Johnson opposes efforts to change the state Constitution to restore voting rights for felons once they have served their sentences. Felons now can have their right to vote restored in Kentucky only by getting the governor's approval.
Johnson sums up his position by saying that people who commit "very violent crimes never really fully repay their debt to society."
Grimes sees it differently, saying ex-cons who "have paid their debt to society should be able to participate in the political process."
But she said it's up to state lawmakers to decide whether to put the measure on the ballot. The proposal has come up for years but stalled in the General Assembly.
Grimes has proposed allowing victims of domestic violence to list the secretary of state's office as their residence on voter registration rolls to give them the chance to vote by helping prevent their attackers from tracking them down.
Johnson expressed sympathy for the victims but said he opposes such an initiative.
"Frankly, I think it would be terribly ineffective for anybody to think the secretary of state's going to be able to protect a domestic abuse victim just by keeping the address out of view," he said.Tags: