Adams discusses recently passed electoral reform | New
Signed by Governor Andy Beshear in early April, House Bill 574 signified Kentucky’s most significant electoral reform in over a century.
The Sun spoke with Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams about what the change means for years to come.
“This is the biggest electoral reform we have had since 1891. The electoral code that I inherited when I arrived here was written in the era of the horse and the buggy, before cars, before electricity in the homes, before industrialization, before the suburbs, ”Adams, a Paducah native and Republican, said last week. “We just hadn’t updated it to reflect modern life. I thought it was really important to catch up with modern times, and I’m really proud of all the progress we’ve made.
Several of the changes were permanent adoptions of policies to increase voter safety during COVID-19, during which Adams was given emergency powers to work with the governor. The main ones are the establishment of three days of advance voting in person for any registered voter; the processing of absenteeism reports, allowing corrections and verifications of these reports with possible errors instead of rejecting them; setting up online portals to request postal ballots; and allow counties to create a polling center, where any voter can vote on polling day.
“Kentucky had a particularly successful election last year. Even in a pandemic, we had the highest turnout we’ve ever had, ”Adams said. “We have been more successful than other states. We had fewer cases of irregularities reported even though we were expanding access and making voting easier.
“He was successful with a high turnout, he was safe from fraud, and he was (health-wise) safe.”
Three other big changes that have been made include a ban on the collection of ballots, when a third party comes out and collects ballots from absent; a change to make it easier to clean up the voters lists of people leaving the state for Adams’ office; and provide for the use of universal paper ballots in every county in Kentucky.
The bill, said McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs, is “a start in the right direction for some electoral law changes. It is not perfect.
“A lot of things that came out of last year’s election because of COVID – some of them were good changes. I’m in favor of parts of it, parts of which we need to make even more change, ”said Griggs.
One thing in particular that Griggs hopes to be addressed in future legislation is limiting absentee voting to the three days leading up to elections. In the past, it was at the discretion of the local clerk.
“I just don’t think that’s enough time,” Griggs said Friday. “We always opened up at least a month before the elections. At a minimum, I think we would need two weeks. The three days are certainly not enough for counties the size of McCracken and larger.
“I think we’re going to try to get the legislation changed on this, so that if the clerks want, they can schedule more in-person voting days early.
The county will choose to establish a voting center in the McCracken County Courthouse clerk’s office, Griggs confirmed. It will also regroup its electoral districts from 54 to 42 only.
Future legislation, Adams added, is a long way off. He wants to see how the changes the state has just made weigh.
“The ink is still wet on this invoice. We have to implement it before we decide it’s not adequate and try to add weeks and weeks of voting, ”Adams said. “We should take a breath and implement all of this and see what works before we try to change it again.
“I had more success in 15 months than my predecessors in 200 years. Now we have to let this dust settle and implement all of this. “