Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams focused on two words about voting, during his remarks Thursday in Paducah: access and security.

Adams, Paducah native, served as this month’s featured speaker for the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s Power in Partnership breakfast at the Julian Carroll Convention Center. He’s been making stops around Kentucky, including Princeton and Bowling Green, to talk about the election system.

He kicked off his comments Thursday by discussing the duties of a secretary of state, noting the No. 1 question he received when running for the job was, “What does the secretary of state do?” He outlined three primary responsibilities: secretary, chief business official and chief election official.

“No. 1, I’m literally the secretary of the state. I’m the chief custodian of records for 4.5 million Kentuckians,” Adams said.

“Every time a bill is passed by the General Assembly, every time the governor signs an executive order — all that stuff comes to me. I’ve got land records in my office in the state capitol that go back to 1792, when we split off from Virginia, became a separate state.”

However, Adams, who has a background in election law, described the elections aspect of the job as the reason he ran and his favorite part. Adams told attendees he was “proud and pleased” to say Kentucky had a “uniquely safe, secure and successful election” in 2020.

The 2020 primary and general elections saw changes related to voting, adapting to public health-related concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In Kentucky, these changes included delaying the primary election until June, expanding voting by absentee ballot and expanding in-person voting.

There was record voter turnout in Kentucky for 2020.

“We had a uniquely secure election,” Adams said.

“A lot of folks thought that we were going to have mass vote fraud because of the things that we did to change the rules, to make it safe to vote in a pandemic and make voting easier without risk. Fortunately, those people were wrong. We actually had fewer irregularities than we had under the old rules that I inherited when I was sworn in.”

He said a key insight he learned was that you can make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” at the same time, and you don’t need to limit access to provide security, or be soft on security to allow access.

Many of the voting changes in 2020, such as an online voter portal for absentee ballots, expanded early voting and a “cure” process for absentee ballots, were made permanent through the passage of House Bill 574, a bipartisan election reform bill. Gov. Andy Beshear signed it earlier this year.

Adams went over the changes Thursday, including the cure process.

“My grandfather just turned 89 years old a couple of weeks ago. His signature looks different today than it did in the early ‘50s when he registered to vote for Dwight Eisenhower. Mine looks different today too than it used to. It’s just natural,” he said.

Adams said Kentucky threw out thousands of ballots every election before last year, because of signatures not matching on ballot envelopes.

“Well, we just threw them out, and I’m not criticizing anybody. That was the law. If it didn’t match, you threw it out,” he added.

With the cure process, a voter will be contacted if their absentee ballot signature doesn’t match and they have a chance to correct it.

“It’s good for access, obviously — we’re re-enfranchising tens of thousands of people who would’ve had their votes thrown out with no notice at all, but it’s also good for security, because if someone is voting in your name and it’s not you, I want you to know about it,” Adams said.

Adams discussed Thursday cleaning up the state’s voter rolls, too, such as removing people who have moved away or died. Earlier this week, Adams’ office also announced a new partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association to promote recruitment of poll workers and voter registration.

Follow Kelly Farrell on Twitter, @KellyAFarrell11

Follow Kelly Farrell on Twitter, @KellyAFarrell11

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