Kentucky Politics

Kentucky officials do not currently plan to make changes around the upcoming primary election on May 19 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Louisiana became the first state to announce the delay of its election, which was scheduled for April 4. Officials now plan to hold the election on June 20.

Kentucky law allows the governor to delay an election up to 35 days due to a state of emergency. This year’s primary includes federal elections for president and senators as well as local officials, such as Metro Council representatives.

Miranda Combs, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Michael Adams said in an email that no such decision has been made, but “all decision-makers in the process are communicating frequently.”

Also on Friday, the State Board of Elections asked County Boards of Elections to move polling places away from senior centers and senior care facilities. Those above 60 and with underlying medical conditions are at greatest risk of negative outcomes due to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The state board said it would provide funding and support for notifying voters of the changes.

That followed Gov. Andy Beshear’s direction to state nursing and long-term care facilities that they restrict visitors except in end of life situations. He asked other such facilities to take similar steps.

The state board also asked County Clerks to inform seniors and other at risks about their potential qualification for absentee voting. Unlike some states, Kentucky voters can only vote absentee, whether by mail or early in-person, if they meet certain conditions. Both options include “advanced age, disabled, or ill” as valid reasons to vote absentee.

Beshear has encouraged Kentuckians this week to avoid crowds when possible and to expect ongoing disruptions for the next couple of months. In past elections, voters have reported long waits in line to cast their ballots.

Combs said there would be no change to absentee voting as relates to coronavirus or avoiding crowds because state law does not allow for it.

She said Adams supports a recent bill that would expand mail-in absentee voting requirements to include “bereavement, or serious injury or illness of a family member.” The bill was filed by Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, on March 4 and has not been heard in committee yet.

In Jefferson County, voters who would be out of the county or unable to vote on election day have the option of voting absentee in-person from April 13 through May 18. The schedule includes extended and Saturday hours.

Applications for mail-in voting by those who meet the criteria are due by the close of business on May 12, 2020. Nore Ghibaudy, spokesman for the Jefferson County Clerk, said concerns about coronavirus would not qualify for a mail-in ballot.

Ghibaudy said the Clerk’s office would take direction from the state regarding any potential changes to voting. He said there had been some discussions but it was too soon to tell whether officials would offer any alternatives to voters.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.