Kentucky expands voting access, cementing status as beacon of bipartisan cooperation on election reform

Andy Beshear

Summary List Placement

In the summer of 2020, Kentucky emerged as a leader in adapting its election procedures to the COVID-19 pandemic on a short timeline.

The state’s then recently-elected Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams teamed up on a bold gamble to offering three weeks of in-person early voting and absentee voting to those afraid of contracting COVID-19. Neither voting option was widely available prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, as many Republican state legislatures and governors in states like Georgia and Texas are coming under intense scrutiny and facing economic repercussions for advancing controversial voting legislation, Republicans in Kentucky’s legislature moved in the opposite direction to make some of the pandemic-era measures permanent. 

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On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 574, a major election and voting package that expands access to voting and modernizes many aspects of the election process, into law. While the bill does not establish no-excuse absentee voting or allow voters to cite fear of the pandemic to vote absentee, it does keep many of the features that made it easier to cast an absentee ballot. 

“Last year, Governor Beshear and I worked across party lines to accommodate our election process to the pandemic, and we had the most secure and successful election we’ve ever seen,” Adams said in a Wednesday statement. “This year, the General Assembly has followed suit, working across party lines to enact the most significant reform of our election system since 1891. This is a triumph of both policy and process.”

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“While other states are caught up in partisan division, Kentucky is leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Adams added. 

Kentucky’s 168-page long HB 574, among other things: 

Requires counties to hold three days of early voting, including a Saturday, before an election. 
Makes the state’s online absentee ballot request portal permanent and requires counties to notify voters of problems with their absentee ballots so the voter can cure the issue. 
Requires counties to offer at least one ballot drop box for absentee ballots. 
Allows officials to begin pre-processing (but not tabulating) absentee ballots two weeks before an election. 
Requires officials in counties that don’t already vote on hand-marked paper ballots to provide voting machines with voter-verifiable paper trails or the option to vote on a paper ballot, and creates a new process for the purchase and approval of new voting equipment. 
Allows counties to open vote centers where every registered voter in a given county can cast a ballot, in contrast to a precinct model where the voter has to vote at their assigned polling place. 
Streamlines procedures for election officials to remove voters who have moved to another state from the voter rolls.
Cracks down on third-party collection and return of absentee ballots. 

In June 2020, Jefferson County, which includes the city of Louisville, decided to hold all in-person voting at the 1.3 million-square-foot …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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