Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams say they are close to a bipartisan agreement on how Kentucky’s elections will be run during the November general election.
Beshear, a Democrat, has advocated for all Kentuckians to be eligible to vote by mail, as they were during this year’s primary election. Adams, a Republican, says the election system would be overwhelmed if that happened.
In an interview, Adams said that he expects the state to have “much more robust” in-person voting on Election Day than it did in the primary.
“I don’t think we’re going to have just one location in Jefferson County or Fayette County,” Adams said. “We’re not going to have hundreds and hundreds, but we’re not going to have one or two either.”
Most of the state’s 120 counties only had one polling location during the June primary election after Beshear and Adams expanded eligibility for mail-in voting to all Kentuckians, citing the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of poll workers.
But the expansion of mail-in voting also contributed to record high voter turnout in the state for a primary election.
Adams said that the primary election was a success, but thinks that local election officials and the postal system won’t be able to handle general election turnout, which is expected to be higher.
“I don’t think that the system can handle everybody voting that way. I think we have to protect that right for people who are especially at risk or perceive they are at risk,” Adams said.
Adams said he expects the final criteria for who can cast ballots by mail will be “subjective,” allowing people to do so if they feel that they are at risk of contracting or having complications from coronavirus.
Adams also said that the final compromise will likely include a reprieve from the voter ID law that passed out of the legislature earlier this year because some people haven’t been able to get IDs during the pandemic.
“Whether it’s directly or indirectly, these are people, who no fault of their own, they can’t get an ID. So we can’t expect them to go get an ID,” Adams said.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Beshear declined to say what he was pushing for in the final compromise, but that he and Adams were negotiating “in good faith.”
“I think that we have a lot of the same ultimate goals and that right now I’m confident that we can reach a good agreement,” Beshear said.
Both Beshear and Adams said that a final decision on the election will come by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, local elections boards and county clerks will be in charge of implementing any changes to the election.
Don Blevins, the Fayette County clerk, criticized officials for taking so long coming up with a plan. He also said he was worried about having to staff both an in-person and expanded mail-in election.
“If they try and do a catch-all, where effectively they require us to conduct two different kinds of elections simultaneously, we just can’t do that,” Blevins said. “Can we do our normal in-person voting? Sure. Can we do mostly mail-in? Sure. Can we do the combo? That’s going to be a challenge.”
Election officials are looking for people to volunteer as poll workers during the election. If you’re interested, you can sign up at GoVoteKy.com.