WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed key voting reforms into law on Wednesday that will substantially expand access to the ballot box in the state. House Bill 574 passed with overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate and will make permanent many strategies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic that helped Kentuckians vote safely and securely. Kentucky will now have three new days of early voting, an online portal to request absentee ballots and new voting centers where residents of any precinct can cast their ballots. Additionally, the legislation mandates a paper trail for cast ballots and requires drop boxes to be set up across the state.
Beshear, a Democrat, helped shepherd the bipartisan bill through the Republican-controlled Legislature in a time when other states are taking the opposite approach, making it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots. In a statement, Beshear expressed his pride in the state’s efforts to make voting in 2020 easier and safer: “While some states have stepped in a different direction, I’m really proud of Kentucky. We created a model for the nation. When sometimes people said eyes were on Kentucky, we showed them the very best, ensuring that not only all our citizens and a record number of citizens in a general election could vote, but that they could do so safely.”
However, Beshear admitted he would like to have done more. The bill does not allow for no-excuse absentee voting, and a three-day early voting window is short compared to other states. H.B. 574 also bans community ballot collection, a move popular with Republicans across the country to make it harder for voters with difficulty getting to a drop box or mailbox to return their ballots.