Kentucky Politics

Kentucky election officials are encouraging voters to cast their ballots early—either by mail, or at in-person polling places that will open in mid-October. Legislators heard from election officials Thursday during a meeting of the interim Joint Committee on State Government held at the state fair.

The state has expanded voting options during the November general election and will allow people worried about catching or transmitting coronavirus to vote by mail in order to reduce crowds on Election Day.

Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, encouraged Kentuckians who are going to vote by mail to request their ballots now and mail them in quickly.

“What we are asking voters do is return those immediately, do no wait. Don’t wait until the last day to effectuate your vote. While that is absolutely your right to do, it is not a good plan to do so,” Dearing said.

Voters can request mail-in ballots on the State Board of Elections website, GoVoteKy.com. Ballots will not be mailed out until mid-September and must be received by local county clerks’ offices by Nov. 6, three days after Election Day.

County clerks will also have drop boxes for voters to return ballots in person.

Every county’s in-person voting plan will look a little different, though every county will be required to allow people to vote early starting on Oct. 13.

Spencer County Clerk Lynn Hesselbrock said that she hopes to have two places for voters to cast ballots early—one located in the center of the county, and a mobile unit that will move to different locations—and three on Election Day.

“Counties are preparing with their local board of elections on how many locations they’re going to have open and we will submit those plans to the secretary of the state, the governor and the state board of elections for approval,” Hesselbrock said.

Every county will be required to have at least one “super center” where voters from any precinct can cast ballots. Hesselbrock said that all of the Spencer County locations will be “super centers,” but Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe said that isn’t possible in her more populous area.

“I do not have the ability to have print on demand in all those locations,” Summe said. “It is an equipment issue for a large county.”

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams came up with the plan expanding voting options for the election.

Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville, expressed frustration with the plan.

“It’s just amazing how much the people’s statutes are just tossed aside and a hodgepodge is put in place and hopefully it works. Just because it worked in May doesn’t mean it’ll work in November. But this is what we’re left with,” Bratcher said.

The deadline to register to vote in Kentucky is Oct. 3.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.