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Lawsuit: 'Kentuckians should not be forced to choose between their health and their vote'

Groups are challenging a number of requirements they say put Kentuckians at dire and unnecessary risk in order to vote in the November election.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Kentucky, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Covington & Burling filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Kentucky. The lawsuit accuses Kentucky officials of not taking necessary and appropriate action to ensure eligible voters can safely cast a ballot in the November general election during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, the Louisville Urban League, the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals, a new release states.

The groups are challenging a number of requirements that would place Kentuckians at dire and unnecessary risk in order to vote, including a new photo ID requirement that would increase Kentuckians’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 by forcing them to visit ID-issuing offices to exercise their right to vote, and the state’s failure to expand vote by mail beyond the June primary. 

“Kentuckians should not be forced to choose between their health and their vote. Kentucky can and should protect voters by eliminating the photo ID requirement and allowing vote by mail in the November election because the spread of COVID-19 will remain a risk. Our lawsuit seeks sensible solutions to safely allow people to exercise their right to vote in a pandemic,” said Ceridwen Cherry, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. 

The provisions being challenged include: 

  • A photo ID requirement to vote in-person and by mail-in absentee ballot. Senate Bill 2 was recently enacted and requires voters to present photo ID to vote in-person, and it requires voters applying for a mail-in absentee ballot to include a copy of the voter’s photo ID with the ballot application.

This unreasonably burdens the fundamental right to vote of Kentuckians who are practicing recommended physical distancing to protect the health and safety of themselves and their communities. 

The photo ID requirement is set to take effect July 15.

RELATED: Kentucky lawmakers override veto of voter ID measure

  • A requirement that voters qualify for one from a narrow list of excuses to vote by mail before there is a COVID-19 vaccine — meaning the vast majority of eligible voters would have to physically go to their polling places, threatening both public safety and the health of individual voters.  

These requirements disproportionately impact older voters, voters with disabilities, black voters, and voters with underlying medical conditions, the group says in the lawsuit.

RELATED: Registered Kentucky voters can now request absentee ballot online

RELATED: Should states expand mail-in voting this November?

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