Fayette Democratic legislators want election changes permanent

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – With a debate sure to occur in the near future, Fayette County’s Democratic state legislators are calling for the changes sued in the state’s June primary be used for the November general election.

In a statement issued Monday, the lawmakers said “it is vital that the same model be used in November – and that the General Assembly make this approach the law for all future elections.”

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“The coronavirus forced us to find ways to make voting safer, but what we came up with went far beyond that,” state Rep. Kelly Flood said. “We saw a record turnout for a primary election and got rave reviews nationally for voting the right way in a pandemic. More than three-fourths of voters chose to make their voice heard by absentee ballot or through early voting, and in my book, that’s a mandate.  I cannot understand why anyone would want to take this expanded access away after seeing how well it worked.”

State Rep. Susan Westrom added, “It is our job as legislators to make it easier for Kentuckians to have their voices heard.  Now that we’ve seen how popular this type of voting is, I believe it is imperative that the legislature makes these changes to the law going forward.”

Noting Secretary of State Michael Adams has described the election as “clean,” State Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson noted, “Voters want to make sure their votes are both counted and accountable, and excuse-free absentee ballots and early voting at supervised locations help guarantee that.”

State Rep. Joe Graviss and George A. Brown Jr. agreed in their statements.

Noting emergency funding will be needed to help local governments cover the additional costs, Graviss said the people he’d heard from “loved” the hybrid approach and “want it to continue.”

Early voting, Brown said, “lets people decide how and when to vote, rather than putting it into a narrow 12-hour window during a work day for most people.”

As Kentuckians look ahead to November’s election, state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo said the state will also need to take on an educational campaign so all votes are counted.

“Thousands of ballots were unfortunately rejected because the voter forgot to sign his or her name or made some other simple mistake,” she said.  “We need to make sure voters understand how important it is to sign everything correctly and follow the other procedures.”

State Sen. Reggie Thomas said the Fayette County Democratic legislators would be meeting with County Clerk Don Blevins to see what improvements he thought could be made if November’s election is conducted like last month’s primary.  “I know one change I would like to see here in Fayette County is for in-person voting to be available without making an appointment first,” Thomas said.  “That seemed to work very well over in Jefferson County.”

            The Democratic legislators said they also opposed this year’s Senate Bill 2, a new law that, starting in November, requires all voters to show a photo ID to vote, something that would extend to absentee ballots as well.

“Courts in other states have shot down mandatory photo ID laws when they were enacted in an election year, and with state offices here closed indefinitely, it is not fair to have this requirement when people cannot even access the free ID cards the new law creates,” the legislators said in a joint statement.  “We need this issue resolved by a judge quickly, or it will undermine much of the goodwill we earned from the primary election.”

The legislators said they would be filing or co-sponsoring legislation soon that would make their recommended changes the law in Kentucky.