While Republican-led state legislatures across the country are ramming through measures to make it harder for people to vote, at least one southern state has passed legislation that will do the opposite.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, on Wednesday signed into law a bill that will expand access to the ballot box for people in the state by making it easier for people to register and to vote early, reports CNN.
Though Beshear is a Democrat, the bill was passed with plenty of support from Republicans in Kentucky’s General Assembly.
The bill, HB 574, passed 91-3 in the state House and 33-3 in the state Senate before going to Beshear’s desk last week. Both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature are controlled by Republicans.
Among its provisions are the official approval for voting centers, an online portal for absentee ballot registration and three days of early voting. It will also require drop boxes, creates official recount procedures, allows for tax dollars to advocate for or against ballot questions and mandates all voting machines to generate a paper trail for votes cast, Beshear said.
“Today is also a good day for democracy, a good day for elections,” Beshear said in reference to the new measures going into law. “When much of the country has put in more restrictive laws...Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote.”
It’s definitely cause for some applause, when other red states like Georgia and Texas have instead put forward legislation to make it harder for people to vote by mail, along with other limitations that would ultimately result in less people being able to exercise their right to vote and disproportionately disenfranchise voters who are Black and Latino.
A New York Times analysis points out that Kentucky was handily won by Republicans in the last election—leaving their legislators likely less determined to create barriers to a coming blue wave of the kind that gave the Democratic Party big wins in Georgia. Kentucky also started off with stricter voting laws than most places in the country and did not have any provisions for early voting until the passage of this new legislation.
Despite the progress that Kentucky has made, the need for federal legislation—specifically the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—to defend against state-level moves towards voter suppression is still urgent. That’s because not every election official appears to be onboard with democracy.
Mississippi’s Secretary of State Michael Scott, for example, recently complained about provisions like automatic voter registration that are proposed under the For the People Act, in an interview with WLOX news.
“I don’t know if a Republican can ever win another national election,” Scott said, if such a measure were mandated. “Think about all these woke college students now, who will automatically be registered to vote, whether if they wanted to or not.”
(You know the GOP’s new favorite dog-whistle, “woke,” was gonna show up somewhere).
“Then they receive this mail-in ballot that they didn’t even probably know was coming,” added Scott. “You got an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote, automatically it’s forced on them and our country’s gonna pay for those choices.”
With state-level election officials like these, is it any wonder defenders of democracy are seeking federal protections of every American’s right to make whatever choice we see fit at the ballot box?