KY Sec. of State Mike Adams speaks at Chamber meeting
By Eugenia Jones
As Kentucky’s chief election official, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams explained the duties of his office and discussed the details of KY HB 574 during the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon meeting held last week at the Heritage Hall in Stearns.
Adams, who was elected in 2019, was successful in fulfilling campaign election goals and promises when KY HB 574-a 2020 legislative victory-enacted Photo ID to Vote and other election reform items. In providing the most significant change to Kentucky’s election system since 1891, KY HB 574 made permanent many of the COVID-19 pandemic reforms temporarily enacted by Adams in 2020.
KY HB 574 brings about seven major election reforms in Kentucky.
First, it expands in-person voting from one day to four by adding three days of early in-person voting on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday prior to Election Day Tuesday. Adams, who does not favor protracted voting periods, supported the addition of a three day early in-person voting window to make it easier for working people to vote. Along with expanded in person voting, the legislation also allows counties to establish county-wide vote centers where voters from any precinct can vote.
While in-person voting is the most reliable way to vote, absentee voting is still allowed. KY HB 574 strengthens the dependability of absentee voting by maintaining the voter services portal which verifies the identity of absentee voters and allows them to receive and track their absentee ballots. The portal also allows the Secretary of State and law enforcement to monitor the absentee process for irregularities while still maintaining privacy of the voter’s choice. Additionally, KY HB 574 establishes a process for validating voter signatures. In the past, absentee ballots could be thrown away without notice to voters because their absentee ballot signatures did not match their voter card signatures from years prior. KY HB 574 provides voters whose signatures have changed with an opportunity to prove their identity and have their ballots counted.
Of great importance, KY HB 574 improves the State’s ability to clean up voter rolls by removing non-residents. Adams has been aggressive in removing dead voters from Kentucky’s voter rolls. In about half of Adams term thus far, more dead voters have been removed from the rolls than live voters added. HB 574 addressed the vexing problem of removing nonresident voters who formerly lived in Kentucky, moved elsewhere, re-registered, but remained on the rolls in Kentucky and could vote here while voting in other states. HB 547 allows the Secretary of State to immediately remove nonresidents as soon as other states recognize them as having moved and re-registered. Prior to HB 574, KY had to wait two federal election cycles to remove a non-resident voter unless written consent was received.
HB 574 also ends ballot harvesting in Kentucky. Ballot harvesting is the practice of a third party going door to door and collecting absentee ballots. The practice has been ripe for intimidation and fraud.
As a result of HB 574, Kentucky is moving away from electronic voting machines and moving to universal paper ballots. This change allows for a paper trail if an irregularity occurs. Optical scan machines that plug into the wall (not cloud) will be used to scan paper ballots to maintain speed in the counting of ballots. With the use of both paper ballots and scanning, speed in the counting of votes is ensured while a paper trail ensures reliability and security.
Finally registered independents are now allowed to serve as poll workers. In the past, a poll worker in Kentucky was required to be registered as either a Democrat or Republican.
Adams next objective is to focus on raising awareness of election reform with Kentucky’s voters and retraining County Court Clerks at the local level.
For his part, McCreary County Court Clerk Eric Haynes stated he is already busy developing a plan to implement election reform and HB 574 in McCreary County. In the coming weeks, “The Voice” will share the County Court Clerk’s plan and, if approved, how it will impact future elections in McCreary County. With all county government offices on the ballot in 2022, it’s information you don’t want to miss!