FRANKFORT – A bill which would allow early voting for any reason cleared a House committee on Monday.
House Bill 290, sponsored by Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, would allow in-person voting for any reason in the clerk’s office or other approved location at least 12 days before an election, and include the two Saturdays before the date of an election.
Currently, if you want to vote absentee in the state, you have to meet certain requirements such as a disability, serving in the military, or work outside your county of residence.
The bill was passed by the House Standing Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs, by five to nothing voter with Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, and Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas passing.
Prior to the committee meeting, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, whose state instituted early voting in 1994, and is one of 37 states to do so along with the District of Columbia to allow early voting, appeared at a press conference hosted by Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, to voice his support for the bill.
Hargett says that voting early has been popular in his state stating that 58 percent of the registered voters voted early in the 2008 presidential election, and 57 percent in 2012.
“It is a way to make it easier to vote,” Hargett said. “What we have found is people love the convenience of knowing that they can vote without having to have an excuse to go vote. People want to be able to know that they can put their vote in the ballot box and not have to worry about what might happen on Election Day.”
Meeks said that the legislation is about opening the door to increasing voter participation throughout the commonwealth.
“I don’t think it should take that much for us as a legislative body to have the political will to make voting more convenient so that more Kentuckians can take part in the process,” Meeks said.
Rep, Darryl Owens, D-Louisville said that it’s a 21st century piece of legislation that will enable more participation in the election process.
“When you look at the fact that only 30 percent of us voted in the last election,” Owens said. “This bill will give us an opportunity to significantly increase that because everybody can’t go to the polls on Election Day between 6 and 6.”
The bill now moves on to the full House chamber for consideration.