Lawmaker’s proposed legislation would open voting access

Bill faces roadblocks in Republican-controlled General Assembly

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) –Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, has filed legislation to expand and ease voter access for Kentuckians on Election Day and the measure, which has been labeled as common sense, likely faces roadblocks in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Republicans have been unwilling to expand voter access beyond the controlled access Secretary of State Michael Adams and Democrats agreed to in legislation passed last year. That has been called too limited by some Democrats and election-openness advocates.

Senate Bill (SB) 159 seeks to extend Election Day polling hours to 7:00 P.M. to give eligible voters more time at the polls to cast their ballot.

“Kentucky has some of the most restrictive laws in the country when it comes to voter access,” Sen. Thomas said. “When you take into account things such as work, childcare, daily commute, and other outside factors, it can make it difficult to find the time in a 12 hour window to get to the polls. Under this proposal, we hope to ease the burden of voting to ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

SB 159 allows for automatic voter registration at the department of motor vehicles when applying for a driver’s license unless declined by the applicant. It would also permit those who are not yet registered the ability to register and vote on Election Day.

Sen. Thomas further explained the need for the bill and noted how Kentucky should follow the lead of other states who have implemented similar legislation.

“Kentucky is one of the few states that does not allow for same day registration or early voting,” said Sen. Thomas said. “Arbitrary deadlines set months in advance should not hinder someone from exercising their right to fulfill sacred civic duty. My hope is that by making these changes, Kentucky can lead on this issue much like we did in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 election cycle.”

Lastly, SB 159 expands mail-in voting by allowing “convenience to voter” as a reason to vote absentee. Additionally, it adds in-person absentee voting beginning 12 working days prior to the election.

SB 159 will be considered if the General Assembly decides to hear the bill during the 2022 Regular Session.

Categories: Local News, News, State News

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