Kentucky unveils election plan with expanded mail-in, early voting options

Gov. Beshear updates COVID-19, election planning
Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 3:49 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear and Sec. of State Michael Adams announced Kentucky’s 2020 general election voting plans in a joint media briefing Friday.

Adams submitted a formal proposal for the plan Thursday which Beshear signed into an executive order prior to the briefing.

The plan follows a month-long negotiation between Beshear, a Democrat, and Adams, a Republican, that the latter described as at all times “professional” and “rational” as well as principled and bipartisan.

Beshear said the goals were to create a safe election that protected voters’ health while ensuring a large turnout without disenfranchisement.

Adams called the plan a “three-legged stool” with expanded mail-in voting, early in-person voting and election-day voting as compared to the state’s June primary election, which drew criticism of voter suppression despite widespread turnout.

The governor said it creates “the most options to vote that we have ever seen in an election” in Kentucky.

Kentuckians who are concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-10 can request a ballot by mail through a streamlined online portal that will launch next Friday. The portal will be open through Oct. 9, after which voters can continue to request a mail-in ballot through traditional means.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 (election day) and received no later than Nov. 6. According to Beshear, this will allow the most ballots to be counted while ensuring the public knows who wins the election in a timely manner.

Adams explained Kentucky already has statutory exceptions allowing mail-in voting, one of which accounts for age, disability or illness. The plan simply expands that category to include anyone worried about contracting the virus or spreading it. The state leaves that up to each voter to decide; voters will not be asked for their age or health condition.

Ballot drop boxes will be available where Kentuckians can drop off their mail-in ballots if they are concerned about postal delays. The drop box locations will be determined by county clerks.

Beginning Oct. 13, a location in every county will be open Monday-Saturday for in-person voting. Anyone can vote early for any reason.

Regarding voter identification, Kentucky’s senate bill 2 newly required a photo ID for voting as of June 2020. That requirement is being lifted, such that Kentuckians who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 while acquiring a photo ID can sign a document explaining their concern and cast their ballot without one.

The state’s driver’s license database will also be linked to the online mail-in voting request portal to expedite the process of requesting a ballot.

On election day, every county will have one super-center voting location where everyone from every precinct in the county can go to vote. The super-centers will increase turnout because often people show up to the wrong precinct and consequently don’t vote at all, Adams said.

County officials will have to submit plans reducing polling locations for approval to the Kentucky Board of Elections, the secretary of state and the governor. That measure follows criticism of Kentucky’s primary voting plan, which notoriously saw some counties reduce their in-person election-day polling locations down to one.

Nonetheless, some reduction in polling places is inevitable, Adams said, as many polling locations are traditionally in schools, churches and even nursing homes, where it may not be advisable to host voting amid the pandemic.

On election night, all counties will be required to report votes received by the close of polls. These will not be final results, and mail-in ballots post-marked Nov. 3 will continue to be counted, but the election-day results are expected to represent the “vast majority” of votes, according to Adams, and therefore produce a close approximation of the final results.

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