Our View: Bill would remove some barriers to voting in Ky.

Another election reform law has been proposed in Kentucky, this time aiming to make it easier for residents to cast their ballot.

On Monday, Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) filed House Bill 596, which he said should make the voting experience easier for voters and election officials.

Secretary of State Michael Adams has said the bill is a top priority for him.

The Easy to Vote bill:

— Extends polling hours to 7 p.m.

— Extends the voter registration deadline so prospective voters have more time to register before an election

— Makes voting by mail easier by permitting the choice of absentee voting in person or by mail

— Permits additional reasons for early voting: employment as “essential service personnel” such as first responders; bereavement; serious injury or illness of a family member

— Permits counties to establish “vote centers,” where any voter registered in a particular county may vote, rather than having to vote at his/her precinct. This benefits voters who may work on one side of the county and have a long work commute home to the other side of the county

— Allows counties who don’t adopt vote centers to more easily consolidate multi-precinct voting at one location

— Allows voters more time to change party affiliation prior to a primary election so they can vote in their preferred party’s primary

— Allows registered independents to serve as poll workers, addressing our poll worker crisis

— Permits poll workers to sign up for half-day shifts

— Allows children and parents to obtain a medical-emergency absentee ballot, rather than just the voter and the voter’s spouse

— Reduces wait time for early voting by allowing a county clerk to place early-voting machines in any of the clerk’s office locations

The full bill is available at apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb596.html.

In the past and even in recent editorials, we have bemoaned low voter turnout in Kentucky, acknowledging that this trend is complicated.

Certainly, apathy among voters plays a role in turnout.

But, there are also many who do not vote because they simply cannot, whether that is because of their work schedule, working out of town, illness or any other number of reasons.

It is critical that eligible voters are able to votes and that they do so.

This is the first bill in a long time that truly addresses necessary reform for elections in Kentucky.

This bill makes it possible for more people to vote and to have their voices heard.

It addresses a wide number of barriers to voting, making it possible for more people to cast their ballots and exercise their rights and responsibilities as voters.

In recent years we’ve seen an uptick in voting, but even in the most recent election that included a ballot for a hotly-contested governor’s seat, turnout was less than 50 percent. That turnout doesn’t include the vast number of eligible voters who are not even registered, indicating a small number of eligible residents are making enormous decisions for our state.

This law takes a necessary huge step in the right direction to encouraging more voter turnout. We hope to see bipartisan support for this bill.

The next barrier will be how to get more people registered, and then involved in the process.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board comprises publisher Michael Caldwell and Bluegrass Newsmedia editors Whitney Leggett and Ben Kleppinger. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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