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Local senator works on military voting bill

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Conference committee includes Dennis Parrett

By Amber Coulter

A local legislator has signed on to help find a solution to problems plaguing military voting. 

State Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, has been placed on a committee aimed at reaching a compromise.

Senate Bill 1 as passed by the state Senate was meant to solve ongoing voting problems, such as military members and their dependents not receiving absentee ballots and returning them by mail fast enough to meet election deadlines.

The bill would allow ballots to be sent by email and voting for service members to take place online. However, an amendment would negate electronic ballot return and require paperwork to be returned by mail. Supporters of the amendment fear an online vote return system’s security might be compromised.

The bill and the amendment passed in the Senate but failed in the state House of Representatives because many lawmakers there wanted military members and their dependents to have the option to return ballots electronically.

A conference committee of House and Senate members meant to reach a compromise and pass some form of the bill

include Parrett, who represents many military members and veterans.

“I believe that there’s no question that a compromise can be worked out,” he said.

Parrett was chosen by the Senate president and represents the Senate Democratic Caucus on the committee.

He said the bill is important because lawmakers want members of the military and their families to be able to vote.

Parrett voted for the bill and against the amendment. He thinks the fact that 24 states have set up systems for electronic ballot return and reported no security problems shows such a plan could work in Kentucky. Those states work with companies hired to encrypt ballot information.

Lawmakers possibly can compromise by allowing electronic ballot return and strike a provision that would extend the deadline by which mailed ballots must be received, Parrett said.

He said the extension could lead to a situation where results for a close election might not be known until the extended deadline passes. Parrett considers that provision unnecessary.

“I just don’t think that’s a good system for our elections,” he said.

Committee members expect to meet during the veto recess.

If an agreement is reached, the conference committee’s decision on the bill would need to be approved by the Senate and House before being sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.