Kentucky is sixth state to ban ranked-choice voting as lawmakers override Governor Beshear’s veto

On April 12, Kentucky legislators adopted a prohibition on ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the state by overriding a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear (D). The new law makes Kentucky the sixth state to ban RCV, and the sixth to do so since 2022. Kentucky is the first state to adopt such a law with a divided government. The other five states had Republican trifectas at the time of adoption.

House Bill 44 changes several areas of election law, mostly related to voter list maintenance, including requiring an annual report on “voter registration records cleanup activities,” and stipulating that voters may only be contacted about their registration by mail. Legislators added the portion of the bill that bans RCV as a senate amendment, prohibiting the use of RCV for local, state, and federal elected office in the state.

In his veto message, Gov. Beshear did not mention the bill’s actions on ranked-choice voting. He focused instead on a technical aspect of a new list maintenance requirement included in the bill. The bill requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to annually provide “lifetime Kentucky death records” to the state board of elections. In the message, Beshear wrote that such records did not exist, that the board is provided with monthly death records under current law, and that, “(t)herefore, House Bill 44 is not necessary.”(Source)

The final version of HB 44 passed the Kentucky State Senate 28-8 on March 27th. All Democrats in the chamber voted against, and all but one Republican present voted for passage. It passed the Kentucky House of Representatives 75-18 the next day with all but one Democrat voting against, and every Republican in the chamber voting for passage. 

Gov. Beshear vetoed the legislation on April 5. Lawmakers overrode the veto on April 12 by similar margins to its initial passage, voting 79-20 in the lower chamber and 24-8 in the upper chamber to make the bill law. Kentucky law requires a simple majority in both chambers to override a veto. Kentucky is one of just four states where one party has a veto proof-majority in the legislature but the opposite party controls the governorship.

With the new law, Kentucky is the sixth state to prohibit ranked-choice voting. Florida and Tennessee were the first to do so in 2022 and three other states, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota, joined them last year. Active legislation in 20 other states would ban RCV, including bills in seven states (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma) that have passed one chamber of a legislature. Republicans control the legislature in each of these seven states.

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