Beshear vetoes bill banning ranked-choice voting in Kentucky, but that's not the reason


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Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill, a late addition, banning ranked-choice voting in Kentucky.

However, Beshear highlighted another provision House Law 44 as a reason for the veto. This provision requires the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to annually provide “Kentucky lifetime death certificates” to assist the State Board of Elections in cleaning voter registration lists.

In his Veto messageBeshear said, “Lifetime death records are not a real term used or understood by the Department of Vital Statistics, so such records cannot be provided.” Instead, the Health and Family Services Cabinet already provides monthly death certificates to the state's Board of Elections . Therefore, House Bill 44 is not necessary because the existing policy already provides more information than the legislation.”

The bill would also require the Administrative Office of the Courts to send to the court a list of individuals who have been exempted from jury duty because they are not U.S. citizens Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney of the appropriate jurisdiction, and the State Board of Elections. The bill directs the electoral commission to remove all persons on the list from the electoral rolls within five days. Another provision prohibits the state from entering into agreements that would force it to engage in voter registration efforts.

Rep. John Hodgson sponsored the election bill, which Beshear vetoed. (LRC Public Information)

The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. John Hodgson, R-Fisherville, responded to the governor's veto on social media by saying that the Secretary of State's Office and the State Board of Elections had conducted a similar process as an experiment last year. Hodgson promised that lawmakers would be “happy to override this stupid veto” when they return next week.

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to evaluate multiple candidates for office based on their preferences, rather than selecting just a single candidate. The Method is becoming increasingly popular across the country to counter polarizing politics.

Maine became the first state to adopt this method in 2016. Alaska uses a system that combines ranked-choice voting with a “Final Five” system, in which multiple candidates advance from a primary to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The Senate passed a replacement committee for the House bill that would ban ranked-choice voting, and the House agreed.

“Any existing or future ordinance adopted or adopted by a county, municipality, or other local governmental agency that is inconsistent with this section shall be void.” the bill says.

But several lawmakers argued that it was too early for Kentucky to ban ranked-choice voting.

Before voting against approving the Senate amendments last week, Rep. Rachel Roarx, D-Louisville, said the ranked-choice method allows voters to “more accurately” consider candidates based on their preferences and that the House should consider further debate before deciding on it.

“How many times has someone told you, 'Well, I would like to have an independent candidate, but he doesn't get enough votes to actually win, depending on how people are registered and what their preferences are?'” she said. “I'm not saying it's right or wrong or anything, I'm just saying our voters should have the opportunity to express those concerns to us and that's the debate we should be having.”

The day before, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, voted for the measure in the Senate but said he opposed the ranked-choice voting provision, arguing that it “is not yet being used in enough jurisdictions.” to figure out whether it could actually be better or not.” This is his last session in the Senate as he is not seeking re-election, but he said he had been working on a bill to pilot ranked-choice voting in Kentucky and had not filed it.

“I think it's premature to ban it before we can see how these pilots work in different places around the country,” Westerfield said. “I would hope that if this turns out to be a good way to elect people, the state of Kentucky would later consider this and reverse and repeal that particular portion of the bill.”

However, not everyone is open to the idea of ​​ranked-choice voting in Kentucky. Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said before voting for the bill that he was “glad we're banning the process.”

“Election Day exists for a reason and the winners are chosen on Election Day. They vote for the candidate and the candidate with the most votes should win. We should not choose a second, third or fourth option. That is the process and that is how the process has always been done. That’s how the process has to stay.”

Republicans hold an overwhelming supermajority in the Kentucky General Assembly, meaning they can easily override Beshear's veto.

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