With the Primary Election just over a month away on June 23, voters should verify that the state has their correct address now, in preparation for receiving postcards explaining how to vote in the coronavirus age.
Board of Elections Chairman Ben Chandler said he and others at the state level are “strongly encouraging” everyone to vote by mail, not in person, due to the possibility of passing the virus in crowded polling places.
The state Board of Elections set out new rules Friday after Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams agreed to allow mail-in ballots for all voters to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Perhaps the biggest concern is we can’t get enough poll workers because of the risk,” Chandler said. “The average age is 70 for poll workers in Kentucky.”
Under the new rules approved by the board of elections on Friday, the state will set up an online portal by May 22 for all voters to ask for an absentee ballot to be mailed to them. If they are unable to do that, they can call the county court clerk’s office and ask for a ballot, and if they can’t reach the clerk’s office, they can call the state Board of Elections.
“The first thing that’s going to happen is the state Board of Elections is going to send out a postcard to every single registered voter in Kentucky,” Chandler said. “If for some reason, they don’t think they have the correct address for them, they need to check their registration now.”
Chandler said voters may do that by contacting their county clerk or by visiting www.govoteky.org on the Internet, and clicking “Review Your Registration.”
Chandler said once the postcards go out, voters will have until “at least” June 15 to request a ballot. They do not have to be out of town on Election Day or disabled to vote absentee this year.
“You will have two options: You can either write your vote down and put it in the mail, and your postage will be free, or if you don’t want to do that, there will be a drop box at the courthouse,” Chandler said.
Voters will have until 6 p.m. on Election Day to get their ballots to the courthouse.
The county clerk in each county will be responsible for placing the drop box and publicizing its location to voters.
If voters absolutely do not want to vote by mail, Chandler said they can call the clerk’s office and make an appointment to vote in person. He said they have to make an appointment because clerks are worried that too many people will show up at once, and spread the virus through the office. If that were to happen, the clerk’s office could be closed “for weeks” Chandler said.
Chandler stressed that voters should vote by mail, or vote early by machine absentee with an appointment. He said they should not wait until Election Day and, “We want to very much discourage anybody from showing up on Election Day without an appointment.”
“The county clerk is required to have one polling place open. If they want to have more open and they feel they can staff them properly, that’s up to them, but every polling place is not going to be open,” Chandler said.
While there have been some concerns that COVID 19 will depress voter turnout, Chandler said he believes there will be a higher turnout because it will be easier for people to vote.
“We believe it will be higher than it’s been because people are going to keep getting reminders,” he said. “They’ll have three solid weeks to get their ballot in — in a normal election, you’ve only got 12 hours.”
Chandler said voters also do not need to worry about the state’s new Voter ID Law in the primary.
“It’s still not going to be the state law for the primaries. That doesn’t become the state law until July,” Chandler said. “Even with the law today, and with the new law going in place, if someone at the polling place recognizes you, you don’t need to have ID.”