Current News

/

ArcaMax

Beshear signs law making it easier to vote as Kentucky bucks national trend

Daniel Desrochers, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in News & Features

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law Wednesday a significant election reform bill that will make it easier for Kentuckians to vote early, bucking a national trend of more restrictive election laws in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

"We showed during this pandemic that we can vote in a safe way, that we can eliminate any concerns about fraud while expanding access so everyone can make sure that they can cast their ballot," Beshear said. "While some states have stepped in a different direction, I am really proud of Kentucky."

Kentucky already has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. Even with the expansions included in the bill, the state's voting laws in many ways remain more restrictive than the provisions contained in a controversial law that was recently signed in Georgia.

But Beshear, who said he would have liked to see more restrictions loosened in the bill, said it was a significant step in expanding voting access.

"Listen, this is a session we saw a lot of battles in, and to be able to come together and expand, at least in part, our access to the ballot box is a win for Kentuckians," Beshear said.

The bill takes some of the elements of the pandemic election plan put in place by Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams and makes them permanent. Things like voting supercenters — where a voter from any precinct in the county can vote — and the online absentee ballot request portal will now become permanent fixtures in Kentucky elections. As will absentee ballot drop boxes and three days of early in-person voting for all registered voters.

At the same time, the bill accomplishes a major priority for Republicans — cleaning the state's voter rolls. Kentucky was under a federal consent decree to remove people from the voting rolls who had died or moved away.

Adams, who played a large role in crafting the bill alongside the Kentucky County Clerks Association and the State Board of Elections, touted the fact that the bill added security measures.

"While other states are caught up in partisan division, here in Kentucky we lead the nation in both making it easier to vote and harder to cheat," Adams said.

 

Adams later announced a federal grant Wednesday that will provide a two-factor authentication device, called YubiKey, to all 120 county clerks in the state. The device will help prevent breaches of the statewide election system by foreign or domestic threats, he said during a news conference with Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton.

"I want to reassure all Kentuckians that our elections are secure," Adams said. "They were secure before I took office, they're secure now, there's always more that we can do. This is about risk assessment, just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean that it couldn't happen in the future."

Former President Donald Trump pushed unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud after he lost reelection, creating an effort to pass more "election security" laws throughout the country. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has been on a tour urging state legislatures to pass provisions that he says would prevent election fraud.

But when Paul testified in Kentucky, the provisions he advocated were already law. In 2020, the legislature passed a bill requiring photo identification to vote. An earlier bill had already stripped the ability of the governor and secretary of state to control how an election is conducted during an emergency (the bill Beshear signed included similar language, as the other bill is tied up in court).

Georgia was never specifically mentioned during the press conference, but that state's new election bill — and the backlash surrounding it — provided a backdrop for Kentucky's celebratory affair. Major companies and organizations like Coca-Cola, Delta and Major League Baseball have spoken out about Georgia's bill and Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has denounced the companies for speaking out as he toured Kentucky this week to talk about federal stimulus money. He urged the companies to "stay out of politics, don't pick a side."

McConnell, though, is a longtime advocate of allowing corporations to make political donations.

Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Morgan Eads contributed to this article.

(c)2021 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.