Legislation would let first responders cast absentee ballots

Published 5:44 pm Friday, December 6, 2019

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

A proposed bill for the 2020 General Assembly seeks to expand the list of those allowed to vote with an absentee ballot to include medical professionals, first responders and other “essential services personnel.” 

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester), who is also a physician, and would allow mail-in or in-person absentee voting. 

Senate Bill 141 would cover anyone who is scheduled to work at any time the polls are open on election day as part of their essential services duties.

Essential services personnel in the proposed bill include doctors and other medical professionals (nurses, mental health practitioners, physician assistants, etc.); emergency management personnel; emergency medical technicians and paramedics; firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency responders; as well as “any other person employed in a profession that requires a license, certificate, permit, or other official recognition of expertise in a particular field or area of knowledge, whose assistance is desirable during an emergency or medical response to prevent risk to health, life, property, or the environment.”

As of now, absentee voting is limited to those serving in the military, students who are temporarily residing outside their county of residence, someone who is jailed and accused but not convicted of a crime, those temporarily residing outside Kentucky, someone whose job keeps them outside their home county, those participating in the Secretary of State’s crime victim address confidentiality protection program or someone who cannot go to the polls on election day due to age, disability or illness.

Alvarado knows as well as anyone the sacrifices medical professionals make to care for their patients. We commend him for his forward-thinking approach to this legislation and hope to see it passed in the upcoming session. 

Each day, the individuals considered “essential services personnel” offer just that to our community. Our community could not run without the work of our first responders and our medical personnel. 

With on-average low voter turnout, our government should be looking for ways to remove barriers for citizens who want to play an active role in the election process in our country. 

We support this legislation that would make it possible for these individuals to cast ballots, even when they are needed by their jobs on election day. 

While these individuals make immense sacrifices for us daily, they should not be asked to sacrifice the right and privilege to vote for those who will represent them in our government. 

These essential services personnel are as deserving of the opportunity to cast a ballot in any election as someone who works out of town, is gone for school, is incarcerated or anything else.