Kentucky Politics

Secretary of State Michael Adams says Kentucky election officials need more than $5 million in additional funding to run the upcoming General Election during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a legislative meeting on Wednesday, Adams provided a list of election-related expenses ranging from absentee ballot postage to 1.2 million pens needed for one-time voter use that will have to be paid for by state government.

“I know that’s a lot of money, especially right now, but I think that’s a bargain for a successful presidential election held during a pandemic,” Adams said.

Kentucky normally pays about $10 million to run a statewide election, but because of the state’s rapid shift to mail-in voting, overdue equipment upgrades and staffing needs, this year’s election will cost about $10 million more, Adams said.

State election officials have about $4.5 million in federal funds left over from the CARES Act and Help America Vote Act that help bring down Kentucky’s bill.

Elections are ultimately administered by the 120 county election boards around the state, who are in charge of staffing voting centers, counting votes and ensuring election security.

Adams’ request includes $4 million to reimburse counties for absentee ballot postage, $2.2 million for additional staffing in county clerks’ offices and a $1 million marketing campaign to educate voters about changes in the election.

“The better we can inform voters about changes, about how to vote absentee without spoiling ballots, about where to vote in person, the more successful election we’ll have,” Adams said.

The legislature, which is ultimately in charge of state spending, doesn’t go back into session until January.

During a meeting of the State Board of Elections on Tuesday, executive director Jared Dearing said he was looking into applying for private grants from the National Vote At Home Institute and a recent election initiative of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

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