Election 2020 Kentucky Politics

With early voting set to begin in two weeks, state officials still haven’t approved most Kentucky counties’ plans for in-person voting.

Many Kentucky counties plan to have fewer in-person polling locations amid a shortage of poll workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the summer, Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams issued an order allowing all voters to cast ballots by mail if they are worried about catching or transmitting coronavirus and requiring all counties to have early in-person voting starting on October 13.

Beshear and Adams also gave themselves final oversight over counties’ in-person voting plans, after some raised concerns about nearly every county only having one in-person polling place during the June primary election.

According to the secretary of state’s website, Beshear and Adams have only approved plans from 51 of the state’s 120 counties so far.

The list of counties that haven’t had their plans approved yet includes the state’s most populous ones — Jefferson, Fayette, Kenton, Boone and Warren.

Jefferson County Clerk Bobby Holsclaw submitted her plan on Friday. It calls for Louisville to have 20 in-person polling locations on Election Day, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Jordan Kelch, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Clerk, says officials can’t yet reveal the full list of in-person voting places for Election Day.

“We’re thinking that we’ll hear back from them, hopefully in the next day or two. Once we hear back, we plan on moving very quickly,” Kelch said.

Jefferson County normally has 270 polling places, but during the primary election had one just — albeit a very large one: the Kentucky Exposition Center.

The decrease in the number of polling places in Louisville prompted criticism from some, who accused officials of suppressing votes in the state’s largest city.

Most people voted by mail during the election, the first time mail-in voting had been expanded to all Kentucky voters in an effort to keep people from gathering during the pandemic.

Jefferson County’s plan to have 20 in-person polling places on Election Day comes after the county clerk initially announced there would be eight locations, with four sites available for early voting.

Secretary of State Adams announced in a tweet on Friday that he had received an updated plan from the county with more locations.

“Pleased that Jefferson County has just sent us a plan expanding Election Day locations from 8 to 20. We appreciate their working with us to improve their prior proposal and we will review their new plan closely and promptly,” Adams wrote.

Miranda Combs, Adams’ communications director, said 110 counties have submitted their plans so far. The deadline for counties to submit their plans is Sept. 28.

In an email, Combs said “the Secretary wants to get the plans moving as soon as possible.”

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