Lawmaker wants early voting and 16-year-olds to be eligible


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -  Early voting and lowering the voting age are the topics of two pieces of legislation that will be filed for the 2019 General Assembly.

State Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, announced the proposals during a Monday press conference in Frankfort.

Thomas noted he had to wait an hour and a half in line to vote in the November General Election.  “That did not bother me at all, and I was pleased to see the long lines,” he said. “But I don’t think that should be commonplace going forward that people should have to wait in line to vote.”

His answer is no-excuse early voting: “My bill would allow that three Saturdays before the election, people could go to their County Clerk’s office and vote, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

Thomas says it reduce the lines to vote on election day.

“More importantly, it would make it more convenient for people who have young children, people who have lengthy work schedules that require them to get up early in the morning and not get home until late at night,” he told reporters.

He says this will involve some additional costs to County Clerks. “Whatever that cost is, I would say the state ought to appropriate it and pay it, because we want people to exercise their choice.”

A second bill proposed by Thomas would lower the voting age in Kentucky from 18 to 16. 

“The bill would allow 16-year-olds to vote in all local elections,” he said.  “That would include school board, any election involving city or county offices, including mayor, county judge-executive, county and city commissioners, county attorney, PVA, and so forth.”

He said other states are considering this, and Kentucky should as well, and added a historical note.  “Kentucky, along with Georgia, was the very first state to allow 18-year-olds to vote.  We took the lead in that area back in the 1950s in allowing 18-year-olds to vote.  I want to do that now, as part of our legacy in Kentucky, to say, ‘we want to allow younger people to vote.’”

Thomas responded to those who say 16-year-olds are too young to vote.

“There is no magic age, by which someone is considered responsible,” he said.  “There are 56-year-olds about whom we wonder ‘what were they thinking?’ And there are 16-year-olds who are very smart, very intelligent and very well informed about what’s going on.”

Lowering the voting age would require an amendment Kentucky’s Constitution, and while the General Assembly can pass proposed amendments at any regular session, it could not be voted upon until the 2020 General Election, according to Section 356 of the Kentucky Constitution.

If his early voting bill is approved, it would likely require lawmakers to re-open the biennial budget, which requires a supermajority in each chamber.  Thomas says it has been done before and can be done again.



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