by Senator Damon Thayer, Majority Floor Leader
I read with interest recent editorials from various newspapers stating it is too difficult to vote in Kentucky and that the Commonwealth should pass a law allowing "early voting" to increase the number of participants in our state and federal elections. I am always supportive of increased voter turnout; early voting is not the answer.
Kentucky's current law allowing voters to cast an absentee ballot by mail or at the courthouse and military voting ballots by mail is "just right." Campaigns are funded and executed with the intention of peaking on Election Day. This strategy is perhaps more true in local elections where candidates are unable to raise large amounts of money for campaigns.
As we saw in the recent Presidential election, relevant information on both candidates came out weeks and even days before the election. It makes little sense that states allow voters to cast a ballot up to a month prior to Election Day, and it makes elections more complicated and more costly. There could still be a debate between two candidates. Should we really consider allowing voters to make their decisions that early? I say no.
Another issue with early voting is the potential for voter fraud when there are fewer election observers and officials monitoring the process. Early votes are not submitted in nearly as controlled of an environment as on Election Day itself.
In 2016 we had just under 60 percent turnout in Kentucky, which is a solid percentage if you look back in history. One way to increase turnout, while giving voters a needed break from elections, would be to move Kentucky's statewide elections to even-numbered years, a proposal my Senate colleagues have passed for several years. The suggested legislation, sponsored by Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill), would save the Commonwealth of Kentucky and all 120 counties millions of dollars, involve more voters in the process, and lighten the load from making Kentuckians vote three out of every four years to just twice out of every four years.
If Kentuckians are serious about increasing turnout for important statewide elections, we should consider Senator McDaniel's proposed Constitutional Amendment to go on the ballot in 2018. This would be a much more effective way to guarantee increased participation in statewide elections while saving taxpayer dollars.