Kentucky lawmakers passed election reform legislation in March keeping some changes for how people vote that were implemented for the 2020 elections due to the pandemic.
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael G. Adams praised a bipartisan effort for adoption of House Bill 574, which Adams said he “largely orchestrated.”
“This bill passed on a bipartisan basis,” Adams said during an interview for the Franklin Favorite that will also air on WFKN. “It passed almost unanimously through both chambers of the General Assembly.”
“It has the support of both Democrats and Republicans which is really good,” Adams said. “I think every election system ought to have bipartisan agreement on how the election is run so everyone can agree that it is fair. We kept some things we had last year, not all of them, but some of them like early voting. We’re not going to have weeks of it as we had last year for the pandemic, but we are going to have three days of early voting.”
Early voting will now be conducted on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before election day.
“Any voter can vote,” Adams said. “You don’t have to have an excuse or sign anything. Just vote the way you would on election day. That’s really going to increase convenience for working people, especially on Saturday.”
The legislation keeps the absentee ballot request tracking portal that allows voters to request an absentee ballot and track the ballot to ensure the voter receives the ballot. The portal also allows the secretary of state to track the absentee ballot requests to ensure they are not lost or stolen.
Adams said the legislation also still allows counties to have vote centers, if they chose to do so, at a location where anyone can vote regardless of the precinct where they are registered to vote.
The new legislation enacted a prohibition on what is known as “ballot harvesting” making it a felony offense. Ballot harvesting is when someone other than a family member can drop off another person’s absentee ballot. The practice is legal in some states.
Adams said Kentucky is moving the state toward universal paper ballots, away from electronic machines.
Simpson County Clerk Jolene Thuman said she is proud of Kentucky’s bi-partisan work to get the bill passed in March.
“They worked together, I’m proud of Kentucky for being a leader,” Thurman said. “Other states with issues (voting legislation) have reached out to Kentucky officials, “I’m proud of that.”
Thurman, who has served as the Simpson County Clerk since Sept. 1, 2016, said she wishes there was one week of early voting, but she said, “three days is good.”
“I’m pleased with [the reform],” Thurman said about the new election legislation.
Adams said the results of a very high voter turn out last year, no spike in COVID-19 cases, no voting fraud, along with feedback his office received about the election led to his working on the bill that includes a lot of measures implemented in last year’s elections.
“First I went to county clerks to make sure they agreed,” Adams said. “I agreed not to push anything they were against.”
He said legislators were then brought into the process.
“This bill was designed by election administrators, by me (Adams), by clerks, by the state board of elections,” Adams said.
“Its designed to make it easier to vote, but harder to cheat,” Adams added. “Not as controversial as in other states.”
Adams said he talked to Governor Andy Beshear in December 2020 before Adams began putting the election bill together and then talked to the governor before the legislation passed and when he thought it would be going to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Adams went to a governor’s signing ceremony making the bill state law and that Governor Beshear gave Adams the ink pen to sign the bill.
“I thought that was very honorable of him (Governor Beshear), Adams said. “He has been good to work with. He deserves a lot of credit for how well things have gone. We’ve had a good working relationship.”
Adams also said the bipartisan effort to adopt Kentucky’s new election law was a reason for public support of the legislation as opposed to other states that have had public back lash for new election laws.
Adams has served as Kentucky Secretary of State since Jan. 6, 2020.