Aware of national trend, AG’s office broadens focus to challenge any unconstitutional voting laws
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 16, 2018) – Attorney General Andy Beshear joined local and state leaders at the Louisville Urban League today to announce an initiative aimed at safeguarding Kentuckians from any potential voter suppression.
A section in the Office of the Attorney General’s civil branch will now have a singular focus to monitor and possibly challenge any unconstitutional laws passed in Kentucky that could disenfranchise voters across the state.
Beshear said at a time when voter-suppression laws are springing up across the nation to disproportionately exclude low-income, minority and disabled voters, Kentucky must have a sustained commitment to fight such policies or laws aimed at voters in the Commonwealth.
“Voting is the bedrock principle of our democracy and must be protected,” Beshear said. “This expanded focus in my office goes hand and hand with the many other safeguards currently protecting voters and ensuring the integrity of elections.”
Beshear’s office coordinates election monitoring with the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State’s Office, Kentucky State Police, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. This monitoring looks at not only primary and general elections, but also special elections held throughout the Commonwealth.
The office maintains the Attorney General’s Election Fraud Hotline (800-328-VOTE). The office answers the Election Fraud Hotline on a daily basis throughout the year, though certainly with an expanded presence on Primary and General Election days, Beshear said.
Beshear’s office will be monitoring the upcoming May 22 primary for local and state elected officials and will be sending out updates to the media and public throughout that day on reported election calls via the hotline.
In addition to phone calls on the dedicated hotline and the special prosecutions’ direct line, the office also receives election complaints by mail and email. Staff reviews those complaints and, when appropriate, refers them for further action, Beshear said.
State law mandates that the Office of the Attorney General independently audit not less than five percent of Kentucky counties after each election to ensure the integrity of the election process. The counties selected for audit are randomly drawn in a public setting. After the audits are conducted by the AG’s Department of Criminal Investigations, the AG’s Office of Special Prosecutions presents the results to the respective grand juries.
Beshear said he fears Kentucky could go down the path that bordering state Ohio went with voters when it enacted a law that subjects voters to a process that removes them from the voter rolls if they fail to vote during any two-year period.
Beshear has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down the Ohio law in order to safeguard Kentuckians from any potential for a similar voter-suppression law.
Beshear and a group of state attorneys general say in their amicus brief with the nation’s highest court that the Ohio law violates the National Voter Registration Act and should be struck down to prevent these types of laws from being instituted in their states.
The Office of the Attorney General is also part of a Wisconsin case before the Supreme Court of the United States, arguing against deliberately drawing districts for the purpose of keeping one party in power for the long term.
Beshear contends that such partisan gerrymandering violates the United States Constitution, and that it “discourages voter participation, increases distrust of government and reduces the responsiveness of elected representatives.”
Sadiqa Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Louisville Urban League said at today’s event that voter intimidation at the polls should never be taken lightly.
“The use of voter ID rules and requirements, especially for minority voters, takes on greater significance when put in the context of where we are as a Commonwealth and a country,” said Reynolds. “The 2018 elections may be the only way to keep us from sliding down the slippery slope toward autocracy, where we are surely headed.”
President of the Kentucky State Conference NAACP and NAACP Louisville Branch Raoul Cunningham said, “The right to vote is one of the most valuable constitutional rights granted to U. S. citizens. In a time when numerous states are considering or have already enacted legislation to restrict or suppress voter participation, the NAACP strongly supports the initiatives of General Beshear aimed at safeguarding Kentuckians from potential voter suppression.”
President of the Louisville League of Women Voters Dee Pregliasco said, “Since the fight for women’s right to vote prior to the 19th Amendment and the civil rights movement of 1950s and 60s, the League of Women Voters understands the constant vigilance needed to protect the right to vote of all citizens. We know that insidious forces work regularly to chip away at this most precious freedom, all to undermine our democratic institutions.”