Kentucky Secretary of State details major changes to voting

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HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Earlier this week Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed the most significant voting legislation in the Commonwealth in more than a century. Kentucky will now allow more days for voting, and more places to do it.

The changes were led by Secretary of State Michael Adams. He joined Eyewitness News’ Jake Boswell to discuss the details of what voters across Kentucky will see beginning this Fall. A transcript of the interview is below.

Jake: Kentucky has just passed some major changes to the way people in the bluegrass vote. It was done with bipartisan support now signed by the state’s top democrat, Governor Andy Beshear. We’re joined this morning by the state’s top election official Secretary of State, Michael Adams. Thanks for joining us from Frankfort.

Secretary Adams: Hey, my pleasure. Good morning.

Jake: First of all, we want to talk about the changes that Kentuckians are going to be seeing. What you’ve called this in several ways the most significant election law updates maybe Kentucky’s seen in the last century.

Secretary Adams: Yeah, we really were behind the rest of the country, until fairly recently, we made it harder to vote than just about any other state in the nation. We made everybody vote in person and they had to do it on one day and 12 hour span, it just doesn’t really reflect the modern reality because busy lives. But we do believe that in person voting is the gold standard. And so this new law moves us from one day to vote in person to four days to vote in person, including a Saturday, that’s a big development for working people like my family. We also have security improvements. We had a safe and secure election last year, but there’s always more we can do. And so this law gives me further ability to clean up our voter rolls. It’s really important for election security.

Jake: Now in a time Secretary Adams, where in many states this has become controversial and voting changes have been so hard to make happen. In Kentucky was it easier to make happen with bipartisan support, because of the majority in the state house in the state senate? I mean, the Senate has 30 of 38 positions held by Republicans in the House has 75 of 100 seats held by Republicans. Do you think that was a major role in why bipartisanship was so easy because the Republican Party has such an advantage in the state’s elections right now?

Secretary Adams: No, I don’t think that at all. Other states, you see lopsided majorities and total control by the Republican Party and they’ve gone in a different direction than Kentucky has. The difference here is that despite their supermajority, they worked in good faith across the aisle Democrats. They didn’t have to do that. They chose to do that. And we got a better product for it. I think it’s really important when you have an election law update that you have both parties buy in on it. Otherwise, it looks like one party is trying to gain an advantage. And that’s not fair. And that’s what you’ve seen at the national level in Congress with Nancy Pelosi trying to change election rules, including in our state, her bill would actually strike down our new law that there’s so much to help voters.

Jake: You spoke earlier about where Kentucky ranked before this major change we’re seeing now for the next election. Do you think Kentucky has more work to go? Is this one step in the right direction? Or is this a major change, it’ll take a while to get used to?

Secretary Adams: Well, this is certainly the biggest reform we’ve had literally since the horse and buggy era, the last time we revisited our election code was 1891. We were way overdue for this. I don’t anticipate any more significant changes to our election system. During my term of office, I think we’ve really moved the ball a big way. When I took office last year we written 44th in the country on election ministration. And next time to get ready, I think we’ll be at the top. I don’t think we need more changes than what we’ve just done. We need to implement these and make sure voters are used to them and exercise their new options before we make any more changes.

Jake: You mentioned that this new law is going to add more security measures. It’s a big thing in Kentucky, it’s across the country, a lot of voters feel like election security is something that’s at risk, or maybe something that’s not near the level it needs to be. With you being the top election official in the state of Kentucky, what can you do to reassure voters that not only the last election was as secure as we believe it to be, but the next ones are also going to be more secure, and really legitimate and every way?

Secretary Adams: Well, it’s always a challenge, because they’re always threats. They’re foreign threats, domestic threats, fraud, suppression. It’s always different. But Kentucky and solace have a safe and secure election, no spiking COVID cases, the highest turnout we’ve ever had in a Kentucky election. And no vote fraud cases coming out of it. It’s very unusual for a Kentucky election. Usually you have some vote fraud, at least attempts here or there around the state. We did a better job than we’ve ever done. And we did it through bipartisan cooperation. But there’s always more that we can do. And so that’s why For example, this bill moves us toward universal paper ballots away from electronic machines into our paper ballots. So we’ve always had a paper trail in case there is any suspicion of any foreign or domestic influence or fraud.

(This story was originally published on April 9, 2021)

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