FRANKFORT — An expert in election issues told Kentucky lawmakers that the public's fear of vote fraud has led more states to require photo identification at the polls.
Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures, addressed the Interim Joint Task Force on Elections on Tuesday in Frankfort.
Voter IDs have become an issue between the candidates running for Kentucky secretary of state. Bill Johnson, the Republican candidate, has pledged to require a photo ID at the polls. Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes supports the current law, which allows voters to use multiple forms of ID. Kentucky lawmakers are considering the issue.
Bowser said several states have passed new voter ID laws over the past decade.
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"Having followed election law for many years, I've never seen such a rush by so many states to enact laws on a single topic without a federal mandate," Bowser said.
There are currently 14 states that require a photo ID at polling places and 16 states that require a non-photo ID. Ten years ago, only four states required a photo ID.
Bowser said one reason voter ID laws have multiplied could be found in surveys that show about 80 percent of Americans think voter fraud is prevalent.
However, she said evidence of people impersonating voters is scant.
"There are strong feelings on both sides, but not a lot of evidence either way," Bowser said.
Voters in Kentucky are currently allowed to identify themselves in one of five ways: driver's license, Social Security card, credit card, any other form of photo ID or recognition by a poll worker.
If Kentucky were to require photo IDs for voters, Bowser said the state would have to print them at no charge, expand county clerk hours and conduct voter outreach, according to The Kentucky Enquirer. She says those measures have cost other states from $100,000 to $10 million.