Kentucky's new Republican secretary of state and leaders of the GOP state Senate majority have reached agreement on a bill requiring voters to show an official photo identification at the polls.
The deal puts the Legislature, which convened this week, on course to be the first in the country to clear legislation this year that would make it tougher to vote in November. Just seven states now have photo ID laws as strict as the one being proposed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The new Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, signaled skepticism about the measure Wednesday, saying, "I just want to make sure that there aren't unnecessary roadblocks toward voting." But since the GOP has supermajorities in both chambers in Frankfort, any potential veto would face an override.
Kentucky's new governor plans to sign an executive order Thursday restoring the vote to more than 100,000 convicted non-violent felons who have completed their sentences.
Andy Beshear, a Democrat and former state attorney general, made the announcement Tuesday in his inaugural address. It's the fulfillment of a promise that shaped the closing days of his campaign last fall, when he won an upset against Republican incumbent Matt Bevin.
"My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches forgiveness," Beshear said, and so he will use his executive power to restore "voting rights to over 100,000 men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now. They deserve to participate in our great democracy."
The Kentucky Republican Party is alleging campaign finance wrongdoing by a radio host considering a longshot bid for Mitch McConnell's Senate seat. But the complaint won't ever get answered without the help of the Senate majority leader himself.
That's because the case has been filed with the Federal Election Commission, which is now into its third month without the minimum membership necessary to begin even the most routine enforcement proceedings. And the reason for that is Kentucky's own McConnell. In his view the FEC that regulates best is the one that regulates least, and so he's bottled up the nomination that would give the agency a four-person quorum.
While Democrats are emphasizing their big victories in neighboring Southern states as warning signs for President Trump, advocates for fixing democratic systems are hailing those same elections Tuesday as major opportunities for their cause.
The most significant triumph came in Virginia, where Democrats reclaimed control of the General Assembly and, along with Gov. Ralph Northam, won unified control of state government for the first time in a quarter-century. That will open the door in January for a long roster of democracy reform proposals that have been languishing in Richmond — from tightening the state's campaign finance rules to stopping the partisan gerrymandering of its electoral maps.
The election of Democrat Andy Beshear as governor of Kentucky, meanwhile, allows him to make good on a promise to end that state's status as one of the harshest places to be a felon who wants to be a voting member of society after serving time. (That's if his win stands up — the incumbent, Republican Matt Bevin, has not conceded.)