It's ridiculously, absurdly early to talk about 2016 presidential politics. Only a fool would try to predict who will be the next Republican nominee just seven months after the last election for the White House.

Still, in most election cycles, the GOP would already have an obvious front-runner by now, one who would more than likely prevail as the party's pick.

Not this time.

"This will be the most open Republican nomination in 50 years," says Tom Rath, a former GOP attorney general of New Hampshire and a veteran of early state presidential politics.

Talk of Tennessee resident Ashley Judd running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky has turned up ambiguity in residency requirements that a state legislative leader says needs to be cleared up.

The U.S. Constitution requires only that Senate candidates be residents of the state they would represent "when elected." But Kentucky election law raises questions about whether candidates can have their names placed on ballots if they're not registered to vote in Kentucky. And only legal residents can be registered to vote.

Kentucky state Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Tuesday the issue has never before been raised here. Thayer said the Legislature may have to address the ambiguity.

Judd, an actress who lives outside Nashville, is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky next year.

Kentucky LRC

A bill allowing electronic voting for military members overseas has cleared the state House after amendments were added to allow for the electronic return of a ballot.

Senate Bill 1 did not original include the electronic return, despite Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes preferring the provision.

Many GOP lawmakers said the electronic return would leave ballots open to fraud and abuse. And state representative Tim Moore, an Air Force reservist and a Hardin County Republican, says he believes it would compromise legal protections for a secret ballot.

"I absolutely believe that this violates the very Constitution these folks are sworn to uphold."

A Republican-led push to use college IDs to vote in Tennessee was held up on the floor of the state Senate Thursday, as a disagreement has broken out between GOP lawmakers over the issue.

The legislation comes from a Rutherford County lawmaker, home to the largest undergraduate student body in the state. And while Senator Bill Ketron refused to accept student IDs when the law was passed two years ago, he’s now had a change of heart.

Senator Stacy Campfield of Knoxville has not.

“You know, I hate to say it, but possibly in my younger days I may have known a person or two who had a falsified college ID,” said Campfield.

Kentucky Senate Approves Electronic Voting Bill That Requires Snail Mail Returns

Feb 27, 2013
Kentucky LRC

The state Senate has passed a bill that allows Kentucky military personnel to register to vote and receive ballots electronically—but they'll have to use snail mail to send the ballots back.

Senate President Robert Stivers would allow deployed citizens to register to vote and receive their ballots electronically.

Initially, a floor amendment to the bill would have allowed the military members to return the ballots electronically, but the amendment was withdrawn by sponsor Sen. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat.

Stein said she thinks the state House will reinsert that provision into the bill.

Kentucky military personnel could get their election ballots electronically—but the ballots would have to be printed and returned to county clerks via snail mail, under changes made to a bill Thursday in a state Senate committee meeting.

The bill—a priority for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes—originally called for military personnel to be able to get and return ballots electronically.

Senate President Robert Stivers, the bill's sponsor, said concerns for the security of completed ballots returned electronically led him to amend it.

The bill, as amended, advanced Thursday through the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committee to the senate floor.

Kentucky's governor and other statewide constitutional officers would be elected in the same year as presidential elections under a bill approved Wednesday in a state Senate committee.

Without a change, statewide constitutional officers—including the secretary of state, state auditor and others—would be next up for election in 2015.

Under Senate Bill 55, those elections would move to 2016.

Those elected positions  will keep four-year terms, sticking with the presidential cycle. To do this, the bill extend the terms of the current officeholders by one year until the end of 2016.

Senate President Robert Stivers kept a pledge Friday by sponsoring legislation aimed at ensuring Kentucky soldiers deployed overseas can cast their ballots back home through an electronic transmission system that the secretary of state will be required to develop.

The bill was given the designation "Senate Bill 1," signifying it is the Senate's top priority in the legislative session.

Secretary of State Alison Grimes, who backs the legislation, said 121 soldiers from Kentucky didn't have their ballots counted in last year's election because they didn't arrive back in the state by Election Day.

The biggest proposed change is that soldiers would no longer have to rely on traditional mail to return their ballots. The bill also would allow late ballots to be counted as long as they're back in the state before elections are certified, which happens three days after Election Day.

A new report shows nearly a quarter-million Kentuckians are denied access to voting booths because of felony convictions.

The report released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky says the state has the third highest rate of people who lost their voting rights despite completing felony sentences. Among blacks, Kentucky has the second highest disenfranchisement rate.

The report says one of every 14 adults in Kentucky is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction, well above the national rate.

It says Kentucky is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise all felons, even after they complete their sentences.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says she wants to make it easier for the state's military personnel to participate in elections. But a major provision is coming under fire from some groups that worry that allowing ballots cast online opens voters to fraud.

The Courier-Journal reports that the chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky delivered a letter to Grimes’ office Wednesday. The letter said the group "strongly recommend against allowing ballots to be cast online via email, efax, or through Internet portals.”