Kentucky likely to see historic election reform, how House Bill 574 changes voting

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Some voting changes Kentuckians saw in 2020 could become permanent if a bill going through the legislature passes.

During the 2020 election year, Governor Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams used emergency powers to create a pandemic-friendly voting process.

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“[Election reform] wasn’t even a discussion point a year ago,” Adams said. “Now, [we’re] looking at what’s sustainable.”

Senator Damon Thayer, R – Georgetown, admitting Tuesday on the floor he didn’t think it was necessary to pass HB 574 this year, but after asking county clerks, it was clear it takes time to implement change.

Some things voters will recognize from 2020 are:
– Keeping early in-person voting, under this bill voters can go in-person Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Election day
– the absentee ballot portal, under this bill the absentee ballot request portal will stay
– Regional voting centers, under this bill voters could continue to use regional centers instead of smaller polling locations

In addition, there are protections on using electronic voting machines and ballots will not be counted after Election Day is over.

“I really couldn’t be happier,” Adams said. “We put together a bill that enhances security in our elections without limiting access.”

And as election law expert Josh Douglas points out, it’s times like this that it’s worth celebrating baby steps.

“”Well this was a great compromise,” Douglas said. “Although it doesn’t go far enough, this bill is a win-win and we should be proud of Kentucky and that we are showing the other states, how to do this in the right way.”

If you remember, prior to 2020 Kentucky didn’t have any early in-person voting.

But why not have weeks of early voting?

Adams says there are financial costs to think about, in a ‘normal’ election year the Federal government won’t be stepping in to help pay.

He also says the data shows the majority of Kentucky voters waited until closer to election day to vote anyway.

“They’ve heard all the arguments from the candidates, that’s when they’re best informed, and most prepared to go cast their vote, and want to vote, we saw that in November,” Adams said.

Adams and Douglas both, say they’re hopeful Governor Beshear will be on board to sign the legislation into law.

“The reason that we have a legislature is so they can come together every year, and keep up with modern times, and we really haven’t updated our election law since the 1800s and that’s what this represents, it’s may be the biggest reform in 100 years,” Adams said.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com