FRANKFORT, Ky. — Many Kentuckians have taken advantage of no-excuse early voting during for the last four years. Last November, more than 260,000 voters cast an early ballot with no-excuse.

But some lawmakers are looking to do away with the service.

What You Need To Know

  • Sponsored by State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, Senate Bill 61 aims to eliminate early non-excuse voting in Kentucky 

  • Secretary of State Michael Adams said early voting makes for a smoother process for voters, clerks and poll workers   

  • Eliminating early voting would bring negative national attention to Kentucky, Adams said 

  • However, Schickel said he argues early voting makes elections an "afterthought"

Proposed by State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, Senate Bill 61 would eliminate no-excuse in-person early voting so long as excused in-person absentee voting takes place at a clerk’s office during normal business hours, 13 business days before an election. The bill's sponsor is getting pushback from Secretary of State Michael Adams (R), who said early voting is popular and getting rid of it would be "embarrassing" for Kentucky. 

Since 2020, Kentuckians have been able to vote the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior to an election if they can’t make it for Election Day. It’s a service Adams made a priority since taking office that same year.

However, the bill aims to eliminate the three no-excuse days of early voting. 

“Early voting is good for the poll workers, it’s good for the county clerks and it’s also good for two types of voters: it’s good for early voters because there’s no line, and it’s good for voters who vote on Election Day because there is a line, but it’s going to be shorter because of all the people who voted already," Adams said.

Adams said since 2020, Kentucky’s elections have received national and international acclaim for their transparency and accessibility. He added eliminating early voting would make Kentucky the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.

“If we pass this and it becomes the law, you’re going to see national boycotts," Adams said. "You’re going to see folks say Kentucky is a bunch of 'backwoods bumpkins' and voter suppressors, and that’s going to make it harder for us to attract jobs. It’s going to make it harder to attract new people to move here."

Schickel, however, said he argues civics among Kentucky’s younger population is lacking. He attributed it to early voting making elections a “afterthought.”

“I say and my constituents, many who I represent, say Election Day is special; I would even say sacred," Schickel said.

SB 61 would expand excused, in-person absentee voting to 13 business days prior to Election Day during normal hours at a county clerk’s office or other designated polling place. Adams said members of both parties like early voting, and not having it could lead to longer Election Day lines or during absentee periods.

“The clerk’s offices aren’t designed as vote centers," he said. "They’re not great big venues; they’re small offices in county courthouses."

SB 61 gained four cosponsors Wednesday. It now has to pass its committee to get a reading. 

Adams said Kentuckians have given positive feedback to his office regarding early voting, as 19% of voters took advantage of early voting in 2023 compared to 12 to 15% in past elections. He added he has no plans to expand the early voting period, as three days of non-excuse, in-person early voting has effectively worked.