Election bills gain approval from House committee

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Three election-related bills won easy approval from a legislative committee on Thursday, including one that would keep many of the changes made during the 2020 election cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, the sponsor of House Bill 574, presented her bill before the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.


“Kentucky enjoyed a record-breaking voter turnout in the 2020 election,” she testified. “And the result caused many members of the General Assembly to consider which, if any, of the emergency election procedures adopted during the pandemic should be made permanent. Without new legislation, our election law will revert to the statutory framework that existed before the pandemic.”


Provisions of the bill include:


--Creating three days of early in-person voting, the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before an election. With no excuse required for Saturday.


--Enhancing the ability of state election officials to remove nonresident voters from the voter rolls.


--Transitioning toward universal paper ballots, statewide.


--Permitting counties to establish vote centers, where any voter in the county may go regardless of their home precinct.


--Keeping the online voter portal, so absentee balloting is fully transparent both to voters and election officials.


--Expressly prohibiting and penalizing ballot harvesting.


--Retaining the signature cure process, so absentee voters whose signatures have changed over time have a chance to prove identity and have their ballots counted.


--Allowing registered voters who are not registered as Democrats or Republicans to serve as poll workers.


Montgomery County Clerk Chris Cockrell spoke in support of the legislation, especially the early voting provision, something he said his citizens appreciated. “In our community alone, I had 10,000 Montgomery Countians take advantage of the early voting and the vote centers. Of the 10,000, there was not one complaint. That says a lot.”


He added, the Election Day turnout was about 2,000.


Hardin County Clerk Debbie Donnelly estimated 90% of her residents took advantage of early voting.


Secretary of State Michael Adams, the state’s chief election officer, noted, “It’s not a utopian project, it’s something that’s workable. I didn’t get everything I wanted, no one did, so that’s evidence of it being a really good bill that bridges the divide and really has support across the political spectrum.”   


The second bill, HB 162, sponsored by Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, would provide for an automatic recount in elections of constitutional officers, members of Congress and members of the General Assembly when the vote margin is 0.5% or less. The state would pay the cost of any recount.


The third measure, HB 225, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, would return the filing deadline for candidates of more than one county, congressional candidates and General Assembly candidates seeking elected office from the first Friday following the first Monday in January to the last Tuesday in January. 


It was changed to an earlier date several years ago, but Fischer says because 2022 will be a census year, this could keep candidates from filing early, then having to re-file, if their district changes as a result of redistricting, when the 2020 census figures are released this fall.


All three measures head to the House floor.

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