By Roger Alford | Associated Press
FRANKFORT — People would be required to show a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship before they could register to vote in Kentucky under a proposal by Republican Hilda Legg.
Legg, former head of the federal Appalachian Regional Commission now running for Kentucky secretary of state, made the proposal during a televised debate Monday night with GOP opponent Bill Johnson, a western Kentucky businessman.
Johnson said he opposes the proposal, instead suggesting it be required that only voters who have photo IDs be permitted to cast ballots.
The two Republicans and two Democrats participated in back-to-back debates on Kentucky Educational Television.
Incumbent Secretary of State Elaine Walker touted her background as a two-term mayor of Bowling Green and her efforts to make Kentucky more business-friendly as the reason voters should choose her in the May 17 Democratic primary against Kentucky attorney Allison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes said she is the only lifelong Democrat and the only lifelong Kentuckian in the race, and that she has the background to make the secretary of state’s office more responsive to the needs of businesses that want to create jobs in Kentucky.
Both Democrats oppose the Republican candidates’ proposals that they said could make it more difficult to participate in elections.
“We already have rules and regulations and a system that really handles most of the issues in terms of voter identification,” Walker said. “It’s simply a red herring. I think that we are addressing that issue.”
“I think the laws that are on the books are sufficient, and I think the voters, especially in the commonwealth, need to see this for what it is,” she said. “It’s an attempt to move the country backward, not forward.”
Legg, who also served as administrator of the U.S. Rural Utilities Service in former President George W. Bush’s administration, has raised the citizenship issue previously on the campaign trail. Johnson said he believes such a requirement would create red tape that would discourage legitimate voters from registering.
“I’m just not going to treat everyone like a criminal just because of a few dishonest people,” Johnson said.
Johnson is promising if he’s elected that he will require voters to drivers licenses, passports or some other form of government identification before allowing them to cast ballots in Kentucky elections.
“I think a picture idea is a fundamental way to show that you are who you say you are,” Johnson said.
Legg said Kentucky can protect the integrity of elections by requiring would-be voters to show birth certificates or naturalization papers when they first register.
“This is not an immigration issue,” she told The Associated Press. “This is about one of a number of ways to ensure that the voter who casts his vote on Election Day is a legal voter.”