GOP secretary of state who spoke out against election denialism wins JFK Profile in Courage Award

Kentucky Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who worked to expand early voting in the Bluegrass State and has spoken out against election denialism in his own party, has been chosen to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award this year.

In its announcement Monday, the JFK Library Foundation said Adams was recognized “for expanding voting rights and standing up for free and fair elections despite party opposition and death threats from election deniers.”

Adams — whose signature policy goal is to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat — was at the forefront of a bipartisan effort with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear that led to the enactment of 2021 legislation allowing for three days of no-excuse, early in-person voting — including on a Saturday — before Election Day. Adams hailed it as Kentucky’s most significant election law update in more than a century. About one-fifth of the Kentuckians who voted in last year’s statewide election did so during those three days of early, in-person voting, Adams’ office said Monday.

As his state’s chief election officer, Adams has pushed back forcefully against false claims about rigged elections, referring to election skeptics as “cranks and kooks.”

“There’s a lot of irresponsible chatter out there and demagoguery about us having hacked elections,” Adams said in a 2022 interview on Spectrum News 1. “It’s all hogwash. Our elections have never been hacked and are not hacked now.”

First elected in 2019, Adams won reelection by a wide margin last year after dominating his party’s primary, which included a challenger who promoted debunked election claims.

Adams, a Kentucky native and graduate of Harvard Law School, said Monday that Kennedy’s “admonition to put country before self still resonates today, and rings true now more than ever.”

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of election officials and poll workers across America who, inspired by his call, sacrifice to keep the American experiment in self-government alive,” he added.

Adams is part of an effort begun after the last presidential election that seeks to bring together Republican officials who are willing to defend the country’s election systems and the people who run them. They want officials to reinforce the message that elections are secure and accurate, which they say is especially important as the country heads toward another divisive presidential contest in November.

“It’s an obligation on Republicans’ part to stand up for the defense of our system because our party — there’s some blame for where we stand right now,” Adams said recently. “But it’s also strategically wise for Republicans to say, ‘Hey Republicans, you can trust this. Don’t stay at home.’”

During a recent campaign rally, former President Donald Trump — the presumptive Republican nominee for president this year — repeated his false claim that Democrats rigged the 2020 election.

Just 22% of Republicans expressed high confidence that votes will be counted accurately in November, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year.

Adams is seen as a potential candidate for governor in 2027, when he and Beshear will be term-limited in their current jobs.

Honorary JFK Library Foundation President Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the award to Adams on June 9 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

President Kennedy’s book, “Profiles in Courage,” recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. Past winners of the Profile in Courage Award include former U.S. presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama.

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