Session Review: Kentucky Election Issues Receive Legislative Attention, Update on Primary Election Changes

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE by Representative Derek Lewis   

DEREK LEWIS 600

May 26, 2020 - Before I begin this week’s session review, I would like to share an update regarding the Primary Election. I hope you are already aware that the Governor and Secretary of State worked together to postpone this year’s Primary from May 18 to June 23 and expand the absentee voting options to include all voters as part of the state’s response to COVID-19. 

The date is the first of many changes you will see in the election - it will be very different and we all need to decide now how we will cast our ballot. According to the Secretary of State, we have three options: vote absentee by a mail in ballot, make an appointment with our county clerk’s office and voting in-person during the weeks before the election, or vote the day of the election in person. 

It is critical that you consider if an absentee ballot is appropriate for you, or if you are determined to vote in person. There is some flexibility for both, however voting in person will likely be far more difficult as most, if not all, counties will only have one polling place open with a limited number of voting stations. 

Voters may request an absentee ballot through an online portal that will verify voter identity. Postcards with information about accessing the portal were set to mail on Friday, May 22 to all registered voters. If you decide to vote in person on Election Day, you will likely not be voting at your regular precinct since most counties will only offer one polling place. Please check with our county clerk for further details on your particular precinct. 

For more information on voting in this year’s Primary, visit elect.ky.gov or depending on which county you reside in, you reach out to the Clay County clerk’s office at (606) 598-2544, the Laurel County clerk’s office at (606) 864-5158 or the Leslie County clerk’s office at (606) 672-2193.  Our clerks and their staffs are working overtime to make voting as accessible and safe as possible. We are going to have to work harder to have our voices heard at the ballot box, but it is worth it. To put it simply, every election is determined by the people who vote. 

Now, among the bills we passed into law this session is SB 2, part of Secretary of State Adams’s campaign platform to “make it hard to cheat and easy to vote.” This measure places additional safeguards in our voting procedures to prevent voter fraud and requires a voter to present a qualifying photo ID to cast a ballot. The measure takes into account those who cannot afford a government-issued photo ID, as well as those who have other reasonable impediments to having one. Most importantly, it drives home the message that elections are important.

We also passed legislation that will allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mate after the Primary – which allows candidates more options and hopefully leads to a better ticket for our entire state. The bill, HB 336, moves the deadline to the second Tuesday in August. We also approved HB 457, which locks in precinct boundary lines during a census year to allow for consistency when we do the constitutionally-required redistricting. This consistency will help avoid confusion.

Voters will consider two amendments to our state constitution when we cast our ballots in November, HB 405 and SB 15. Known as Marsy’s Law, SB 15 would provide certain constitutional protections and rights for crime victims. You may remember that we approved this constitutional amendment in 2018, but the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned the vote based on the language of the ballot question. Frankly, this was extremely disappointing and went against more than a century of precedent. 

If approved by voters, HB 405 would change the length of time circuit court clerks, commonwealth’s attorneys, county attorneys, and district judges serve. Specifically, it increases from six to eight years the term of office for Commonwealth's Attorneys beginning in 2030. It would also increase the term for district judges to eight years from four years beginning in 2022. Additionally, it would require a licensed attorney to practice for eight years before being eligible for a district judge position beginning in 2022.

Even though we are not in session at this time, I still want to hear from you regarding concerns about the upcoming election process or any other issue.  I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 or here at home. You can also contact me via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

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