Politics Kentucky expands voting access, cementing status as beacon of bipartisan cooperation on election reform
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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.
- Kentucky continues to establish itself as a rare beacon of bipartisan cooperation on voting.
- On Wednesday, the state's governor signed bipartisan legislation expanding voting.
- The bill codifies in-person early voting and modernizations to the absentee voting process.
In the summer of 2020, Kentuckyin adapting its election procedures to the COVID-19 pandemic on a short timeline.
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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.
The state's then recently-elected Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams teamed up on a bold gamble to offering three weeks of in-person early voting and absentee voting to those afraid of contracting COVID-19. Neither voting option was widely available prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as many Republican state legislatures and governors in states likeand are coming under intense scrutiny and facing economic repercussions for advancing controversial voting legislation,
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There’s a debate over whether some of the For the People Act’s provisions are misconceived.Known as HR 1 in the House, where it passed in early March with only a single Democratic defection, and S 1 in the Senate, where it’s co-sponsored by every Democrat except West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, it’s a bill that Democrats and allied outside advocates argue is urgently necessary to save the country not only from voter suppression, but also from gerrymandering and the malign influences of big and dark money in politics.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear, a major election and voting package that expands access to voting and modernizes many aspects of the election process, into law. While the bill does not establish no-excuse absentee voting or allow voters to cite fear of the pandemic to vote absentee, it does keep many of the features that made it easier to cast an absentee ballot.
"Last year, Governor Beshear and I worked across party lines to accommodate our election process to the pandemic, and we had the most secure and successful election we've ever seen,". "This year, the General Assembly has followed suit, working across party lines to enact the most significant reform of our election system since 1891. This is a triumph of both policy and process."
"While other states are caught up in partisan division, Kentucky is leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat," Adams added.
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.
Kentucky's, among other things:
- Requires counties to hold three days of early voting, including a Saturday, before an election.
- Makes the state's online absentee ballot request portal permanent and requires counties to notify voters of problems with their absentee ballots so the voter can cure the issue.
- Requires counties to offer at least one ballot drop box for absentee ballots.
- Allows officials to begin pre-processing (but not tabulating) absentee ballots two weeks before an election.
- Requires officials in counties that don't already vote on hand-marked paper ballots to provide voting machines with voter-verifiable paper trails or the option to vote on a paper ballot, and creates a new process for the purchase and approval of new voting equipment.
- Allows counties to open vote centers where every registered voter in a given county can cast a ballot, in contrast to a precinct model where the voter has to vote at their assigned polling place.
- Streamlines procedures for election officials to remove voters who have moved to another state from the voter rolls.
- Cracks down on third-party collection and return of absentee ballots.
In June 2020, Jefferson County, which includes the city of Louisville, decided to hold all in-person voting at the 1.3 million-square-foot Kentucky Exposition Center to allow for social distancing,as the county only holding one regular-sized polling place for all the county's voters.
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While many liberals and celebrities raised the alarm over the county's plan, flooding Twitter with the hashtag #AllEyesOnKentucky, the state's experimentation with voter centers and am ambitious expansion of three weeks of in-person early voting and expanded absentee voting
Kentucky stood out as other states like Georgia and New York, who also held primaries in June,
Kentucky and state legislatures in a number of safely blue states that seldom receive national attention but were nonetheless behind the curve on offering multiple voting options are finally taking up legislation to codify more early voting days, no-excuse mail voting, drop boxes and ballot curing, and expanded voter registration opportunities.
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Despite winning the Electoral College in 2016, Trump couldn’t admit he had actually lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, instead claiming without evidence that she had received millions of illegal votes. Trump made his baseless election fraud accusations again going into the 2020 election and escalated them after Joe Biden was declared the winner, with Trump and many of his supporters refusing to acknowledge his defeat. The widespread belief among Republicans that the election was illegitimate culminated in a “Stop the Steal” rally headlined by Trump on Jan. 6, the day Congress met to officially certify Biden as the winner of the election.