Democrats look to "modernize" Kentucky's voting laws

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky House Democrats unveiled a series of bills they plan to introduce during the 2021 General Assembly to modernize Kentucky election laws.

Some proposals would turn a few of the emergency actions taken this year by Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams into state law. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, voting hours were extended and redistricting was addressed.

House Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said the measures are designed to make the government more efficient and effective.

“This legislation takes away outdated barriers and brings fairness to those whose voice is still unheard at the polls,” he said. “These reasons are why we are calling this legislation the Kentucky Voters’ Bill of Rights.”

Topics include:

--Early, in-person voting and excuse-free absentee ballots.

--Permanent “cure” process for correcting absentee ballots.

--Expanded voting hours to 7 p.m.

--Automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration.

--Repeal straight-ticket voting.

--Require advance notice of polling-place changes. 

--Automatic restoration of voting rights for felons and expanded felony expungement.

--Redistricting reform/maps with citizen input, rather than just lawmakers whose districts are being redrawn.

Other election changes would expand the list of which family members could request an absentee ballot for a voter having a medical emergency, make requesting an absentee ballot via the Secretary of State’s secure online portal permanent, provide additional secure drop boxes for absentee ballots, require provisional ballots in state races for voters whose identity cannot be verified by poll workers, and make it easier for Kentuckians to vote who do not have a permanent address.

Beshear, a Democrat, said the changes he and Adams made to this year’s elections appear to be working well.  “I think once we are through this November, we can look at them as not helping Democrats or Republicans, but just helping people vote and making it more convenient for everybody.”   

Adams, a Republican, said that although he has not read all the proposals in detail, he has long been a supporter of extended hours and expanded absentee voting, and offered another proposal he’d like to see included.

“To have vote centers so that a resident of the county can go to a central location and vote without regard to precinct,” Adams said. “People go to vote at the wrong precinct and they don’t get to vote.  This is what happens when you have a precinct-based system.”

The 2021 General Assembly session begins January 5.

     

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