Today, the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection passed legislation based on Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ recommendations to protect military and overseas citizens’ voting rights. “Today we took a huge step forward and earned a victory for our military and overseas voters, but our work is not done,” said Grimes. “I will continue to fight to fully protect their right to vote.”

Grimes issued her recommendations following a trip to the Middle East to evaluate the status of military and overseas voting. Senate President Robert Stivers sponsored Senate Bill 1 to implement Grimes’ recommendations, and the Committee unanimously passed the legislation.

The bill would accomplish several of Grimes’ recommendations, including allowing military and overseas citizens to register to vote and update their registration online, ensuring military and overseas voters have sufficient time to vote in special elections and extending existing protections to state and local elections and National Guard members.

Witnesses at the hearing testified about the need for additional provisions that were included in the bill Stivers originally filed but stricken by amendment at the Committee meeting. They urged the Committee to allow military and overseas voters to return executed ballots electronically and, under certain circumstances, to count ballots received after the polls have closed. 19 states already allow ballots to be counted even if they are received after the close of the polls, and 24 states permit military and overseas voters to return ballots via email or the Internet.

Grimes said, “each and every one of these provisions is necessary to fulfill our obligation to make sure Kentucky’s men and women in uniform have the time and means to cast a vote that will be counted.” Grimes said that in the 2012 General Election, nearly 10 percent – more than 300 – of the military and overseas ballots that were returned could not be counted for various reasons. “Those problems could effectively be eliminated if SB1 was passed in its original form.”

Janette Smith, whose husband Major Nicholas Cipparone is currently stationed in Afghanistan, explained how her husband’s ballot in the 2012 General Election nearly was not counted due to a failure of the mail delivery system. Smith also said her husband also found it difficult to explain to soldiers why their votes did not count.

The hearing room was filled with veterans, service men and women and their families and friends who support the full measure, as originally filed, to protect military voters’ rights. Many wore stickers asking the Committee to “PASS…don’t SLASH.” “These are the voices we’re fighting to make sure are heard,” said Grimes. “They put everything on the line for us, and we owe them more than partially fulfilled promises and half-measures.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote. For more information on its status, visit the Legislative Research Commission’s website.




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