An election reform bill designed to make the voting experience easier for voters and election officials was filed Monday in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 596 was filed by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville. A recent news release from Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, who ran for the office on a platform of making it “easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said he considers the bill a priority.

Adams said the Easy to Vote bill “will reduce counties’ election costs, shorten wait lines at the polls, and increase voter participation.”

The bill would change state law in the following ways:

• Extends polling hours to 7 p.m.

• Extends voter registration deadline so prospective voters have more time to register before an election.

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

• 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 or 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 their precinct.

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

• Allows registered independents to serve as poll workers, addressing a poll worker shortage. It also 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.

County Clerk Debbie Donnelly said there are pros and cons to the proposed bill. For example, she said extending the polling hours to 7 p.m. would not work.

David Logsdon, IT specialist for the Hardin County Clerk’s Office, said he understands why people suggest longer polling hours, but they are not thinking about the hours before and after the polls open that election officers have to be present. He said many election officers get started at 5:15 a.m.

Once the polling closes at 6 p.m., Donnelly said election officers then have tallying and paperwork, which keeps them another hour.

Donnelly also sees the half-day option for poll worker shifts as problematic. She said they have people who call in and cancel on the day of the election.

“John Henry could say, ‘Yeah, I’ll sign up for the 1 p.m.,’ and then call and say, ‘Something’s come up, I can’t make it.’ Then what are you going to do?” she said.

Logsdon said the bill would be difficult to implement.

Last year, Donnelly said they trained around 300 poll workers. With extended hours, they could have to train as many as 600.

“We have a tough enough time now getting them (poll workers),” she said.

Donnelly was in agreement with the idea of vote centers, where any voter registered in a particular county may vote, rather than having to vote in a precinct near their residence.

Donnelly said she was glad the bill included additional reasons for early, hardship voting for essential service personnel and allowing children and parents to obtain a medical emergency absentee ballot, rather than just the voter and the voter’s spouse.

“That’s a good idea,” Logsdon said.

In regard to allowing voters more time to change party affiliation prior to a primary election and allowing registered independents to serve as poll workers, Donnelly supports both.

“I think it’s a good idea. They are a registered voter, they meet all the other qualifications, and who is going to be more independent in a primary, more impartial, than an independent?” Logsdon said.

Also this week, Senate Bill 2 was passed in the House. The bill would require Kentuckians to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. But those who don’t have photo IDs still would be able to cast a ballot if they have a credit card or Social Security card and sign an affidavit swearing they are who they claim to be.

Prior to its approval, the bill received 42 amen­d­ments.

“I’m good with Senate Bill 2,” Donnelly said.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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