2021 Legislative Accomplishment - Elections Reform
Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams agreed on many pandemic-related accommodations including widespread mail-in absentee voting and multiple weeks of early in-person voting.
Before the changes were made last year, early voting - including early mail-in absentee voting - was prohibited unless a person could not vote on Election Day due to their advanced age, illness, disability or temporary residence out of the county or state.
HB 574, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, is intended to strike a balance between the pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 election process differences. The bill includes three days of early voting, language to continue voting centers and a requirement for a paper ballot trail.
Despite differing views on what form elections should take going forward, the bill had overwhelming bipartisan support with a 91-3 vote in the House and 33-3 in the Senate.
Adams said while other states are “trying to make it harder to vote,” Kentucky lawmakers are “improving both voter access and election integrity.”
Beshear opened a recent press conference with praise for these efforts.
"I want to start by talking about voting, about how when much of the country has put in more restrictive laws that Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote,” he said.
Elections- HB574 Rep. Jennifer Decker
- Modifies early voting statute to require polls to be open from the Thursday to the Saturday before Election Day for anyone to vote.
- Allows voting centers for any voter to cast a ballot, regardless of where he or she lives.
- Does not require counties to have more than one voting center location.
- Does not provide for universal mail-in ballots but does continue the web portal for ease in applying for absentee ballots; it will be open 45 days before Election Day and will close 14 days before.
- Does not require the immediate purchase of new voting machines, but requires all machines purchased after the effective date of the bill (June 30, 2021) to have a paper ballot trail.
- The counting of ballots must conclude on Election Day.
- Enhances the ability of state election officials to remove nonresident voters from the voter rolls
- Prohibits and penalizes ballot harvesting, a practice in which absentee ballots are collected from voters' homes and dropped off at a polling place or election office. The practice is allowed in some states but the .
- Keeps the signature cure process used in 2020 where absentee voters whose signatures have changed are allowed to verify their identity so their ballots count