Politics Kentucky governor signs bipartisan early voting measure
Georgia voting law explained: Here's what to know about the state's new election rules
Republican lawmakers in Georgia have overhauled the state's elections. Here's a breakdown of what will change under Senate Bill 202.Democrats and civil-rights groups panned the voting bill, and major Georgia-based corporations came out against the bill after it was passed. GOP state lawmakers who backed the bill and other Republicans nationwide harshly criticized the backlash, calling for boycotts of brands like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation Wednesday expanding early voting in Kentucky, a rare display of bipartisan cooperation in the heart of Trump country at a time of national conflict over restrictive election measures.
The Democratic governor called it “a good day for democracy.” The bill's GOP sponsors and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams joined him at the signing ceremony.
Voting rights: Democratic-led states eye expansion amid GOP push to restrict access
Virginia and New Jersey this week joined other Democratic-led states moving ahead with new laws that would expand voting access -- a stark contrast to the Republican rush in statehouses across the country to make voting more difficult. © Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images Voters fill out their ballots at an early voting center at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center on October 31, 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked voting measures across the country, 843 bills that would expand voting access, largely offered by Democrats, have been introduced in 47 states.
“This new law represents an important first step to preserve and protect every individual’s right to make their voice heard by casting their ballots in a secure and convenient manner on the date and time that works best for them,” Beshear said.
Adams said it represents Kentucky’s most significant election law updates in more than a century.
The measure provides for three days of no-excuse, early in-person voting — including a Saturday — before Election Day. It also allows counties to establish voting centers where any registered voter in each county can cast their ballot, regardless of their precinct.
These key provisions relax the state's strict pre-pandemic voting laws. Before the coronavirus hit, Kentucky prohibited early voting by mail or in person unless a person could not vote on Election Day because of advanced age, illness, severe disability or temporarily residing out of the county or state.
How some states are expanding voting rights amid sweeping push to restrict access
A burgeoning number of states are pressing ahead with making voting easier amid a push in several Republican-led legislatures to restrict access. The effort might seem like an outlier at a time when Republicans are scaling back voting access across the country and being condemned by Democrats for ushering in a new era of "Jim Crow." In the aftermath of former President Donald Trump and his allies spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, at least 361 bills aimed at restricting ballot access have been introduced as of March 24, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.
But the new law backs off from Kentucky's temporary, pandemic-related accommodations, which allowed widespread mail-in absentee balloting and seemed to minimize the long lines and confusion seen in some states during last year's elections.
The measure also aims to strengthen election security protections.
“While other states are caught up in partisan division, here in Kentucky we’re leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Adams said.
Republican state legislators across the country have pushed for new voting restrictions while seizing on former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. Many Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping the U.S. Senate will pass legislation standardizing voter protections nationwide.
The tension is most evident in Georgia, where a far-reaching new voting law pushed through by Republicans has drawn an intense national scrutiny, prompting belated criticism from such corporate giants as Delta and Coca-Cola.
How Georgia's new voting law compares to other states
Georgia's new voting law has sparked outrage from Democrats and even been called "Jim Crow on steroids" by President Joe Biden, but many of its provisions have governed elections in other states across the country for years. From voter ID requirements to ballot drop boxes, and early voting schedules to absentee ballot access, there is little new or unique in the freshly minted Georgia rules. In fact, many of the measures critics are attacking have long been in place in blue states, including Biden's home state of Delaware.
But in Kentucky, where Trump remains popular, the tone among lawmakers was mild as the bill moved through the GOP-dominated legislature. It was a departure from the bare-knuckled partisan fights Kentucky has been accustomed to on other hot-button issues.
“While some states have stepped in a different direction, I’m really proud of Kentucky,” Beshear said.
The new Kentucky law maintains an online portal for residents to request a mail-in ballot, but restores pre-pandemic restrictions on who can vote by mail. Regarding election security, it will lead to a statewide transition toward universal paper ballots to guarantee a paper audit trail. It enhances the ability of state election officials to remove nonresidents from voter rolls. And it expressly prohibits and penalizes ballot harvesting, the practice of collecting ballots from likely supporters and returning them to election offices.
The new law echoes the tone set last year by Beshear and Adams, who hashed out emergency voting measures during the pandemic that helped Kentucky largely avoid the long lines and other problems encountered elsewhere.
One op-ed writer saw partisan calculations behind the bill, saying Republican lawmakers supported the measure because it helped their dominant political brand in Kentucky. The writer, Berry Craig, a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College, said the state's comparatively low percentage of Black voters also made Republicans comfortable in getting behind the relaxed voting rules.
“While Republicans in Kentucky made it easier to vote because they thought it benefited them, you can bet that if the Democrats, with a big boost from minorities, start significantly rebounding in Kentucky, GOP voter 'reform' will swiftly become impermanent, and Republican lawmakers will lose no time restricting minority voting,” Craig wrote recently.
Breaking down claims about Georgia's election law: What's true and what's not? .
Politicians on both sides of the political aisle have misrepresented parts of Georgia's new election law. Here's a breakdown of what's accurate and what's not. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged questions from reporters about President Joe Biden's incorrect claim that the new law ends voting at 5 p.m. -- pointing instead to other aspects of the law she said makes it harder to vote. She also said the new law was "built on a lie" that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from former President Donald Trump -- a reference to the baseless narrative that Trump actually won the election.