Thanks to a new Kentucky law, Kentuckians will be getting more time to vote in-person prior to Election Day starting in 2022.
Gov. Andy Beshear officially signed House Bill 574 into law on April 7. The new law will change the way elections are conducted across the Commonwealth by adding three days of early voting.
The bill was written by election administrators, county clerks, the secretary of state, and the state board of elections, it wasn’t written by a think tank in another state, said Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams. “It was written by us.”
As a key supporter of the bill, Adams said the new law has helped him keep his promise that he made during his campaign.
Adams campaign slogan was, “Make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
“I think I have kept my promise. Unfortunately, some people care a lot about voter access but not much about ballot integrity, and some people care a lot about security and not enough about access,” said Adams. “I think the sweet spot is to do both. It is to enhance access, but also enhance security. This bill really does that.”
Using some elements that were prevalent in the 2020 election, the law now allows for three days of early in-person voting.
“There are some things we did just for the pandemic, but there were some things we did that actually caught on for other reasons and we thought we should make permanent,” said Adams. “We saw that even in a pandemic, 70 percent of voters wanted to go vote in-person, but of those who did, two out of three them voted before Election Day. They especially voted the last few days before Election Day.”
Adams said that adding the extra days makes it easier to vote.
“There is really no other government service or program that is limited to one day,” said Adams.
Rather than multiple weeks of early voting, Adams said the three days was a compromise because weeks of early voting was not needed as it was during the pandemic, but it still gave a few extra days for individuals to be able to make it to the polls.
Whitley County Clerk Carolyn Willis said, “I feel like they did try to work with us, when I say us – as county clerks. I was hoping for my county that there would be at least seven days of early voting. It works well for our county. Reading HB 574, it looks like we are going to have three days of early voting.”
Willis said there are a couple of small points that she is hoping to get changed for Whitley County, such as extending the hours for voting during the three days of early voting. Right now, the voting could only take place during the normal business hours, but Willis said she would like to have the office open from at least 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. those days to accommodate voters.
Adams said ultimately, he received everything he wanted in the bill except a shortened deadline for voter registration prior to Election Day.
“We saw a big surge in voter registration the last several days that registration was available in October. That is when people will pay attention to politics the most is in October,” said Adams. “Right now, under our law there is a 28-day window where you can’t register to vote before an election. I think that is too long.”
Adams said he believes there should be a window prior to elections when registration stops, but that 28-days is simply too long.
“I wrote out a wish list and everything I wanted is in there. There is nothing objectionable at all [in the law],” said Adams.
The bill which was sponsored by six republican representatives was passed, with bipartisan support, 91-3 with six representatives not voting.