Kentucky sees largest election reform since 1891

Kentucky sees largest election reform since 1891
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 4:57 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - On Wednesday, Governor Andy Beshear signed House Bill 574, the largest election reform bill for the state of Kentucky to be passed since 1891.

“This new law represents an important first step to preserve and protect every individual’s right to make their voice heard by casting their ballot in a secure and convenient manner on the date and time that works best for them,” said Gov. Beshear.

HB 574 addresses several reforms, including the creation of the online absentee ballot portal which will be active no more than 45 days before a primary or general election.

“What’s nice about the portal is its pro access, but it’s also pro security. It’s a win-win. I want to be very clear. Last year because of the pandemic we allowed voters to vote absentee based on health or age concerns from COVID. We’ve not changed the absentee ballot law but obviously, with COVID gone and 2022, we won’t have absentee balloting available for every voter,” said Michael Adams, Secretary of State.

Other additions made familiar to Kentucky voters because of COVID-19 are additional days to vote early in-person and voting centers.

“It’s kind of arbitrary to give people one day to vote. Last year, we give them 19 days to go vote. I don’t think we need that every election outside of a pandemic. But I thought a few extra days to vote, including a Saturday, were a real good development last year. So this bill has now three days of early voting, so four days to vote. It also allows counties to have vote centers like you all had in Warren County that was so popular with voters,” Adams added.

Drop boxes were also another approved addition that was utilized in the previous election as well. It allows for voters to drop off their absentee ballot in a secure box. The drop box locations for each county will have to be approved by the State Board of Elections.

A new security measure in HB 574 also requires machines to create a paper trail of votes cast which allows for a paper record the state can go back to.

“We now are on this measure, transition the state universally to paper ballots, it won’t be overnight, but it will be over I think my term. I think on both sides people really feel more comfortable with a piece of paper, an actual paper trail. We can count them electronically and get a fast count. But we have the security now, the paper trail we didn’t have before. So we’re going to implement that over the course of the next several years,” Adams added.

13 News reached out to the State Board of Elections, for a comment on HB 574.

“The State Board of Elections is appreciative of the work of Governor Andy Beshear, Secretary of State Michael Adams, Kentucky County Clerks Association (KCCA), and the legislators who shepherd the bill successfully. It’s an incremental step forward that gives voters more access to the ballot while adding transparency and security,” said Jared Dearing, the Executive Director for the State Board of Elections.

To read HB 574 click here.

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