Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams visited the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg on Tuesday, Aug. 22 to discuss changes to elections in Kentucky and to give an update on businesses.
Adams said that in terms of policy he had two main responsibilities, business filings and elections.
“Once Covid hit we saw a surge in business registrations,” said Adams.
Adams said they saw a surge of 20 percent in businesses the first year, 2020, and that most were Kentucky owned businesses.
“I will confess to you, I believed this was a flash in the pan and that these businesses would start and then they would fail, or people would get their old jobs back and go back to their old jobs and close down their businesses,” said Adams. “I was totally wrong.”
Adams said most of those businesses have sustained over three years. He said of the 330,000 businesses opened since 2020, about 270,000 are homegrown businesses and 60,000 are what is considered foreign business. Adams said foreign business just means the company is not a Kentucky-based company.
Adams said that tax cuts are bringing in businesses but the majority of businesses in the state are Kentuckians creating jobs for Kentuckians.
On the election front, Adams said Kentucky had been given a D rating in as recent as the last five years in independent surveys.
“They graded our election process,” said Adams. “They graded the length of lines we had to vote. They graded how secure the elections were, how accessible the elections were.”
In 2019 Kentuckians had only one day they could vote in 12 hours and it was difficult to vote by absentee ballot.
“Back in 2020 Kentucky had the best experience of any of the 50 states in our elections during Covid in terms of how accessible we made things, but also how secure we made things,” said Adams. “That was because of our great county clerks, our legislators and the governor being in the same handbook.”
Adams said a lot of the reform made due to COVID was made permanent in 2021.
Adams said legislators passed election reform that will provide more funding for the elections.
“Elections in Kentucky were severely underfunded,” said Adams.
Adams said legislators passed a bill that will require for every voting device in the state to utilize a paper ballot. He said voters don’t trust electronics.
“You can’t hack a piece of paper,” said Adams. “You can’t hack a pencil or a pen.”
Ten years ago, Adams said, the then-Kentucky Secretary of State worked on the Addressing Confidentiality Program. This program was to help keep confidential the identities of domestic violence survivors.
“Unfortunately, Kentucky is number one in domestic violence,” said Adams.
Adams said they felt they could improve on the original program so they wrote and passed the Safe At Home Act.
The Safe At Home Act makes three changes to the original program. It provides for interstate reciprocity, the confidentiality is applied to all state or local agencies’ public records in addition to voter rolls and a repeal of the protection order requirement.
“Now someone who wants to join the program just sends us an application,” said Adams.