FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly passed significant legislation Monday night that will make three days of widespread early voting a regular part of the state’s future elections and expand people’s access to the ballot in other ways while also instituting new security measures.
The state House of Representatives’ Republican and Democrat members overwhelmingly voted late Monday night, in a 91-3 decision, to give House Bill 574 final passage and send it to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.
As long as the governor doesn’t veto it, HB 574 will make significant changes to state law, including:
- Establishing three days of in-person early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Election Day;
- Letting people “cure” their absentee ballots if a problem, such as a mismatched signature, would otherwise cause it to be thrown out;
- Making the online portal through which Kentuckians requested — and government officials tracked — absentee ballots in 2020 a standard feature of future elections;
- Letting counties offer vote centers where residents from any precinct can cast their ballot;
- Allowing for secure drop-boxes where people can turn in their absentee ballots;
- Requiring counties to gradually phase out electronic-only voting systems and switch to equipment that can process paper ballots;
- Letting state officials quickly remove someone from the voter rolls if they’re notified that person moved to and registered to vote in another state.
Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams made notable but temporary changes to Kentucky’s elections last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. HB 574 will adopt some of those things, such as no-excuse early voting and the online portal for absentee ballots, for the long term.
Adams, who advocated heavily for HB 574, recently told The Courier Journal this legislation significantly revises the commonwealth’s election system, which dates back to the “horse-and-buggy era.”
“My campaign slogan was ‘make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,’ and this bill does both,” he said. “We take a model based in the 1800s and update it to the modern reality of people’s busy lives, and we do it in a way that actually makes the elections more secure than they used to be.”
The Kentucky legislature passed this bill with broad bipartisan support at a time when Republicans and Democrats are fighting over voting rights in other states and in Congress.
Adams emphasized the value of reaching bipartisan agreements on election reforms in an interview this month with The Courier Journal.
“I think the only way to have an election system that everyone thinks is legit is for both sides to come together and work it out,” he said.
Reach reporter Morgan Watkins: 502-582-4502; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @morganwatkins26.
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