A bill to do away early voting in Kentucky has been proposed by a Northern Kentucky senator despite opposition from the commonwealth’s Republican secretary of state.
Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) sponsored and filed Senate Bill 61 on Jan. 4. The measure was assigned to the Senate State and Local Government committee this week. On the Senate floor Friday, Schickel framed early voting as a COVID-era holdover that is not beneficial to the election process.
“Many of us feel that COVID was used as an excuse to undermine some of our most sacred institutions – election day being one of them,” Schickel said in the Senate. “That’s not to say that adjustments during that time were not appropriate – some folks think it is, some folks don’t think it is, that’s a discussion for another day.”
The Boone County senator was one of three members of the Kentucky Senate who opposed a 2021 sweeping election law (House Bill 574) that expanded early voting in Kentucky. That law made permanent a pandemic-related executive order from the governor that put early voting into practice in 2020.
Early voting – which allows registered voters to cast their ballots early for any reason (no excuse) in their county of residence — is permitted under Kentucky law on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday immediately before an election. Voters may cast ballots those days at “voting centers” located in their official county of residence.
Nine voting centers total were available in NKY counties of Boone, Campbell, and Kenton in 2023, according to information provided by the office of Kentucky Secretary of State’s Michael Adams on Friday.
Adams commented on the bill on Thursday, telling reporters that the proposal would impact Kentucky’s reputation and its ability to attract workers. Secretary of State spokesperson Michon Lindstrom followed up with LINK nky on Friday saying the office believes SB 61 would hurt election poll access.
“Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree on one thing: they love early voting, and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians have taken advantage of it in each election since Secretary Adams implemented it in 2020. Curtailing voter access to the polls would be disastrous, particularly as we head into a presidential election with expected high turnout,” said Lindstrom.
But in the Senate on Friday, Schickel said he thinks statements that “voting on election day with all the precincts open with absentee access … weeks before the election would lead to long lines and delays as our SOS asserts, to me is misinforming the public.”
The bill would not eliminate excused in-person absentee voting — which it would extend from six to 13 days — or mail-in absentee voting. Both allow absentee ballots for registered voters who cannot appear at the polls or in person due to age, disability, illness, temporarily living out of their county of residence, and other limited circumstances spelled out on the state Board of Elections website.
According to the board, there were 260,375 Kentuckians who voted under the commonwealth’s no-excuse in-person early voting law in the 2023 general election.
In her comments Friday, Lindstrom told LINK nky that Kentucky’s early voting law has been heralded across the nation as a success. She echoed her boss’ sentiments that SB 61, should it become law, wouldn’t be good for the state.
“Kentucky has drawn national acclaim for making it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and Secretary Adams is fighting to protect voting rights and keep Kentucky from turning from a national success story into a national embarrassment,” she said. But Schickel doesn’t seem eager to put the issue aside.
And the bill now has a following in the Senate. By Friday morning, there were four cosponsors to SB 61, including fellow NKY Sen. Gex Williams (R-Verona). The measure could be heard in committee in the coming days.
“We’re not selling potato chips and chocolate milk here,” Schickel said of SB 61 on Friday. ”We are talking about voting for, I think, the most important representative republic the world has ever known. And it’s in that spirit that we ought to be doing our elections.”