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Kentucky Bill Takes Cautious Steps Toward Election Reform

Karyn Czar

An election reform bill that takes moderate steps toward permanently adopting some widely-praised changes made during the 2020 election cleared another hurdle Thursday.

"Ultimately, if the bill passes, Kentucky will have much stronger election laws than it had previously," elections expert Joshua Douglas tells WUKY. As it often goes with legislation, House Bill 574 is a mixed bag, he says, but he believes on balance it will improve Kentucky's election system.

The reforms allow for three days of early voting, bring back the drop boxes used last year, and keep the online portal for absentee ballot requests, though they do not expand who can vote by mail. The bill also makes permanent a "ballot curing" system that allows voters to correct ballots that were not properly prepared. But Douglas would like to see language that goes further.

"The current proposal only allows for a ballot cure for a signature mismatch, but there are other problems with ballots that can arise," he notes. "In addition the cure process closes on Election Day, which is concerning because if a ballot arrives on Election Day itself there'll be no way to cure that ballot if there's a problem."

HB 574, which easily won approval in the House Elections Committee, also sets the rules for future election reforms -- placing that power solely with the General Assembly. The legislature had allowed the governor and secretary of state to craft emergency changes to the voting system in response to the pandemic in 2020.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.