Ease restrictions; early voting, weekend hours more convenient

As election news poured in from other states, Kentuckians may have found themselves wondering, "What is this 'early voting'?"

A practice that makes voting more convenient for millions of people in 34 states and the District of Columbia is an exotic unknown in the Bluegrass State.

Here polling hours are custom made for rural landowners who must travel by horseback to cast their ballots and make it home by nightfall.

For modern Kentuckians, though, our lone day of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. balloting is not so convenient.

Many would-be voters have jobs and family responsibilities that make it difficult or impossible to stand in line during the 12 hours the polls are open.

How much more convenient to vote on the weekend or by mail, as residents of the majority of states are already able to do.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is interested in moving Kentucky elections into the 21st century by pursuing early-voting legislation. Her predecessor, Trey Grayson, also supported early voting and once estimated the extra cost at a minimum of $1.5 million.

The cost shouldn't be prohibitive since counties already own voting machines; with early voting, the public would get more use out of the machines.

Kudos to county clerks who are publicizing absentee voting. But the law requires absentee voters to have an excuse such as age, disability, military service or a work-related conflict.

What we need, as Grimes told WKU Public Radio, is "no excuse" early voting.

Democracy is strongest when there is broad participation. The fundamental way to participate is by casting a ballot on Election Day. Limiting the electorate is one way for political machines to control elections and governments.

Encouraging more voting would be good for Kentucky. Instead, the state makes it harder to vote. We're one of just two states where felons lose the right to vote for life, though they can regain the vote through a reinstatement process.

Once criminals have paid their debts to society, they should be expected to become contributing members of that society, and that requires voting.

Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, has championed automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons. The legislature should finally give Kentuckians the chance to vote on a useful constitutional amendment like that.