A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Voting on June 23: Postcard reminder for mail-in voting, fewer on-site voting sites, register by May 26

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Despite it likely being the most unusual one in state history, preparations are on schedule for Kentucky’s June 23 primary election.

The coronavirus has played a role, not only in when the election will take place, but the manner in how it will be conducted.

After Secretary of State Michael Adams, Kentucky’s chief election officer, sent a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear recommending the election be postponed from May 26, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor issued an executive order implementing the change. In a show of bipartisanship, Adams, a Republican, and Beshear, a Democrat, have worked together on ironing out a number of election-related issues since then.

The biggest change, other than the date, is encouraging voters to use mail-in absentee ballots rather than vote in-person on Election Day itself, and every registered voter will get a postcard in the next couple of weeks explaining the process.

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“It’s going to have instructions on what their options are, voting absentee or voting in person,” Adams said. 

“Every postcard will have a link to an online portal that we’re about to launch, where people can apply online for their ballot. They have to prove their identity first, with personally identifiable information; or they can email, fax or call their county clerk for the same information.”

For those who prefer to cast their ballot in person, Adams says the postcard will have the county clerk’s phone number so they can make an appointment to vote.

“We’re not going to turn away voters who don’t have an appointment,” he emphasized, “but we are encouraging people if they can to make an appointment, so we can stagger out voters and avoid crowds.”

Those who prefer to vote in-person on Election Day itself, can expect to find a limited number of locations.

“It’s just not feasible for us to have in-person Election Day at 3,600 precinct voting locations and 15,000 poll workers,” Adams said. “We don’t have enough locations that can enable social distancing and we don’t have enough volunteers to be poll workers.”

So as part of the agreement he and the governor reached, Adams says they are having the counties come back to the state Board of Elections with their own specific plan, which are all going to be different.
“In some counties you might just have four precincts with one voting location, that works great. You can’t have just one voting location in Jefferson County, or Fayette County, or Daviess County, with their large populations. The bigger the county, the more locations they’ll have.”

Adams says Carroll County has already submitted their plan. “They’re going to have voting at General Butler State Resort Park. An outdoor venue, a big venue.”

Kenton County’s on-site voting will at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The postcards that will be sent to all registered voters will have a second purpose, as they will not be forwarded if the person has moved but returned to the state Board of Elections, where they can begin the process if seeing of the voter should be removed from the rolls.

“I’ve taken quite a bit of heat from my own side of the aisle on expanding absentee voting,” Adams chuckled.  “But in exchange for that, as a concession, I was able to get from the Governor, we’re getting our voter rolls cleaned up. It’s an issue I ran on, and I thought it would take four years to get it done, but we’re making significant progress now.”

The pandemic also allows election officials to replace voting machines in Kentucky.

“We have $12 million in federal funds plus $3 million in state matching funds. That will enable us to buy new voting equipment. We have 29 counties who currently cannot produce a paper trail because all their machines are electronic.”

He says since he began campaigning 21 months ago that is one issue that unites everybody.

“We should move away from electronic voting machines in favor of paper machines because voting on paper means you have a paper trail, and if there is suspicion that there has been a hacking, we can go cou8nt the physical ballots. If there’s a concern about vote fraud, we can go back and count the physical ballots.”

A second concern with the electronic machines Adams says is people are touching the buttons over and over again, as opposed to single-use paper ballots.

Adams adds he thought it would take a decade to replace the machines, but the timetable is being speeded up significantly, thanks to the federal funding.

The deadline to register to vote is May 26.  Register or check your status by going to govoteky.com

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