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Op-Ed: Voting Accessibility and Security Increased with HB574


The following op-ed is written by Montgomery County Clerk Chris Cockrell, president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association

As the 2020 General Assembly enters its final days, lawmakers still have an opportunity to pass legislation that was born out of success rather than a problem.  Freshman Representative Jennifer Decker, along with Representatives James Tipton and Josh Branscum, have teamed up with the County Clerk’s Association, State Board of Election, and Secretary of State’s office to develop the most comprehensive election reform bill in decades. 

This bill is a response to the voting preferences that Kentuckians demonstrated last year while voting during the Covid-19 pandemic.  HB574 has “cherry picked” the very best of what was seen during the 2020 Primary and General elections.  Early, in-person voting contributed to the record turnout in the 2020 general election and was the key factor in the decrease in the mail-in ballots percentages that Clerks witnessed from the primary to the general.  A mail-in voter costs roughly $6.50 per voter, compared to $3.50 for an in-person voter, making in-person, early voting much more appealing to many cash-strapped counties.

Along with the early voting savings, the use of vote centers would substantially help those same counties when replacing aging election equipment.  Vote centers would allow counties to combine precincts, which in turn would reduce the need for multiple scanners, e-poll books, precinct officers and other supplies

Another reform that HB 574 would make permanent is the online portal to request an absentee ballot. Thanks to the portal, County Clerks saw an increase in securing the mail-in process, while decreasing the cumbersome process of having to mail the requested application, wait for its return, and then mail out the ballot.  This streamlined process is more efficient for both the voter and election officials.

While these are major components to this bill, it also has provisions for removing from the voter rolls those that have moved out of state, allowing voters to cure their mismatched signatures on their absentee ballots, and many other improvements to our elections.

If passed, HB 574 would allow for greater voter engagement, enhanced election security, and cleaner voter rolls, while saving taxpayer dollars. Which begs the question, who wouldn’t want this passed?

Last week, more than 90 members of the Kentucky House voted for HB 574.  In its final days, the Senate has the opportunity to do the same.  On behalf of the Kentucky’s County Clerks, and others who developed this bill, please contact your State Senator and Senate leadership and urge them to pass HB 574.

Photo: Montgomery County Clerk Chris Cockrell