As conservative state legislatures nationwide clamp down on voter access, Kentucky on Wednesday took a much different approach. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, signed a law expanding access voters have to the polls with support from both parties.

HB 578 passed Kentucky’s House and Senate last week with only three no votes in each. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. 

"Today is also a good day for democracy, a good day for elections," Beshear said. "I want to start by talking about voting -- about how when much of the country has put in more restrictive laws -- that Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote."

The bill gives the go-ahead for voting centers, an online website to register for absentee ballots and a three-day expansion of early voting. It mandates ballot drop boxes, establishes universal recount regulations and gives state funding for advocacy for and against ballot measures.

The concerns about election legitimacy used to restrict voting in other states aren’t entirely absent, but instead of criminalizing providing water to prospective voters who stand in line, Kentucky’s bill merely requires voting machines to keep a paper tally of their votes.

Georgia is the highest-profile example of red states going in the opposite direction. Its decision to curtail voter access has sparked nationwide backlash and forced large companies to consider whether operating in the state is worth the hit to their public image.

A March tally from the Brennan Center for Justice recorded 361 bills curtailing voter access in 47 states. That’s a 43% rise over February’s numbers.

Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear claimed victory over Republican Matt Bevin, who was backed by US President Donald Trump Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / John Sommers II

Beshear didn’t spare his party from criticism while approving the law, alluding to his colleagues in his statements.

"While some states have stepped in a different direction, I'm really proud of Kentucky," he said. "We created a model for the nation. When sometimes people said eyes were on Kentucky, we showed them the very best, ensuring that not only all our citizens and a record number of citizens in a general election could vote, but that they could do so safely."