Early Voting, Mail-in Options, but Voter Outreach a Concern in Kentucky

Kentucky residents concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus will have the option to vote by mail in November's general election — they just have to state their health concerns as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot

State officials are gearing up for several general election changes this year amid the COVID-19 crisis. - Photo: AdobeStock
Photo: AdobeStock
State officials are gearing up for several general election changes this year amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Kentucky residents concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus will have the option to vote by mail in November's general election. State officials announced last week that voters simply will have to state their health concerns as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

The plan agreed to by Secretary of State Michael Adams and Gov. Andy Beshear also gives Kentuckians the option to vote as early as Oct. 13 at select polling locations. Cassia Herron, board chair of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said the move will allow more essential workers an opportunity to vote.

"So we're thankful that the governor and secretary of state are really weighing in on early voting and adding Saturdays," Herron said. "Voters should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to vote three weeks before Election Day, and that includes Saturdays — particularly for folks who have challenging work schedules."

Election officials say there continues to be a shortage of poll workers and are urging younger residents and those who aren't at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness to work the polls on Election Day. Residents can register to be a poll worker by visiting GoVoteKY.com and clicking on the "Kentucky Needs Poll Workers" link.

Herron said it may be challenging for Kentuckians to parse through all of the election changes since there is no statewide voter public information campaign.

"So it's going to be up to all voters who are already engaged to tell your neighbors and your friends, about the process by which they can register if they're not registered, and to let them know when and how they can vote early," she said.

The more than 170,000 Kentuckians whose voting rights were restored through Gov. Beshear's executive action now are eligible to register to vote for the fall election. The deadline to register is Monday, Oct. 5.

Herron said residents should make sure they know where their polling location is in advance.

"County clerks are going to be really essential in this election," she said. "Folks need to call their county clerks, and be sure that you understand where the in-person voting locations are, and to work with the county clerks' offices to be sure that those places are accessible and that they are widespread."

More than 50 advocacy groups across the state recently sent a letter to the State Board of Elections calling for additional measures, including stronger poll-worker training, election materials translated into Spanish, and publicly accessible dropboxes for ballots.

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