Amended absentee ballot legislation is still "very much alive," according to State Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville).

House Bill 209 (HB209), sponsored by Kiel, is designed to crack down on ballot harvesting. The bill still has to pass both the Senate and the House since it was amended in a Senate Committee last week. There are only three days left in the legislative session.

"I think it's very much alive," Kiel said in an interview on Tuesday. "We've got it passed through the House. It's passed through the Senate (State Governmental Affairs) Committee so we're just waiting to get it on the calendar in the Senate. We've had widespread support in the House. I think we had something like 40 co-sponsors on it." 

The amendment exempts persons assisting to blind, disabled and voters who can't read or write from any criminal penalties. It also changed the penalties for those who order, request, collect, prefill, obtain or deliver an absentee ballot application or absentee ballot in addition to their own to a Class A misdemeanor rather than a Class D felony.

The legislation would also make it a Class C felony for anyone who knowingly pays a third party or for any third party to receive payment to distribute, order, request, collect, complete, obtain, prefill or deliver an absentee ballot application or absentee ballot for another person. 

The language of the bill allows assistance from a person by any family member to the second degree of kinship, a guardian or conservator, a resident of the household who has lived there more than six months, an employee designated by the secretary of state, a designee of the local probate judge or a county absentee election manager.

"We took an amendment in committee to try to quelch those fears that we were trying to target handicapped or blind people," Kiel said. "We put an amendment in that specifically excludes them. I think we've got a good shot of getting it in the Senate. They have the votes to pass it. We just need to get it on the floor." 

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