The Bill Would Have Banned Ranked-choice Voting In Kentucky, But That’s Not Why Beshear Killed It

The Bill Would Have Banned Ranked-choice Voting In Kentucky, But That's Not Why Beshear Killed It

A vote sign is put up outside of a Louisville early voting site. (Mckenna Horsley took the picture for Kentucky Lantern)

A bill that would have banned ranked-choice voting in Kentucky was added late and was nixed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

But Beshear pointed out a different part of House Bill 44 as the reason for the veto. That part of the law says that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has to give the State Board of Elections “lifetime Kentucky death records” every year to help clean up the voting rolls.

In his veto letter, Beshear said, “The Department of Vital Statistics does not use or understand the term “lifetime death records,” so they cannot be given. Instead, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services already sends the State Board of Elections death information every month. Because of this, House Bill 44 is not needed because the current strategy gives more information than the law does.

The bill also asks the Administrative Office of the Courts to send the attorney general, the US attorney for the right area, and the State Board of Elections a list of people who were not required to serve on a jury because they are not U.S. citizens. The bill gives the elections board five days to take anyone on the list off the voting rolls. Another part of the law says that the state can’t sign any agreements that would force it to try to get people registered to vote.

The elections bill that Beshear rejected was backed by Rep. John Hodgson. (LRC Information for the Public)

The main sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Hodgson, R-Fisherville, reacted to the governor’s veto on social media by saying that the State Board of Elections and the secretary of state’s office had tried out a similar process last year. As promised, Hodgson said that lawmakers would “gladly override this silly veto” when they get back to work next week.

With ranked-choice voting, voters can rank the candidates for an office in order of desire instead of choosing just one. As a way to fight divisive politics, the method has become more popular across the country.

In 2016, Maine was the first state to use this method. Alaska’s voting system combines ranked-choice voting with a “Final Five” method, which lets more than one candidate, from any party, move on to the general election after winning a primary election.

The Senate passed an alternative to the House bill that would ban ranked-choice voting, and the House agreed.

The bill says that any ordinance made or approved by a county, municipality, or other local government body that goes against this section will not be valid.

A few politicians said it was too early for Kentucky to ban ranked-choice voting, though.

Before she voted against agreeing with the changes made by the Senate last week, Rep. Rachel Roarx, D-Louisville, said that the ranked-choice method lets voters think about candidates “more closely” based on their preferences and that the House should discuss it more before ruling it out.

“How many times have people told you, ‘Well, I’d like an independent candidate, but they won’t get enough votes to win because of how people are registered and what they want?'” this question asked. “Now, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong or anything; I’m just saying that our constituents should be able to tell us about their concerns, and that’s what we should debate.”

The day before, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, voted in favor of the bill in the Senate, but he didn’t like the ranked-choice voting part because it “hasn’t been used in enough jurisdictions yet to find out whether or not it might actually be better.” He is not running for re-election, so this is his last term in the Senate. He said he had been working on a bill to test ranked-choice voting in Kentucky but did not file it.

“I think it’s too soon to ban it before we have a chance to see how those pilots work in different parts of the country,” Westerfield said. “I hope that if it turns out that that is a good way to elect people, the state of Kentucky will think about that in the future and get rid of this part of the bill.”

A ranked-choice vote, on the other hand, is not liked by everyone in Kentucky. Before voting for the bill, Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said he was “glad we’re banning” the process.

“There is a reason for Election Day, and that is when winners are chosen.” If you vote for someone, that person should win because they got the most votes. The second, third, or fourth choice shouldn’t be ours. That’s the way things are done and always have been done. The process must stay that way.

In Kentucky’s General Assembly, Republicans have a huge majority, which means they can easily reverse Beshear’s veto.

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