FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - 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, 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
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
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
"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
"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."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)