FRANKFORT — Kentucky voters will all be allowed to vote by mail for the primary election that was moved to June 23 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams said on Friday they have reached an agreement on how the state’s primary elections, special elections and local option elections scheduled for June 23, 2020, will be conducted given the global health pandemic.
Secretary Adams sent Governor Beshear a formal letter of recommendation Thursday, and Friday the Governor issued an Executive Order that outlines the election procedures that will be in place in June.
“Today’s Executive Order and regulations that will be created by the Kentucky State Board of Elections will allow all Kentuckians who are registered to vote for the upcoming primary to vote by mail through an absentee ballot,” said Governor Beshear. “While there will be significant education and work required, we are committed to making sure this election will be held in a safe manner while we are in this worldwide health pandemic.”
“Voters across the political spectrum will be pleased with this plan to protect both democracy and public health,” said Secretary Adams. “I’m grateful to Governor Beshear for his leadership, and his working in good faith with me toward ensuring a successful and safe election.”
The Governor said the State Board of Elections will also be working on a plan to safely conduct limited in-person voting and a possible drive-through voting option, so that those voters who cannot vote by mail can exercise their right to vote.
Adams later Friday released details to his plan.
“This plan fulfills my promise to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said Adams. “Through expanding absentee voting – with appropriate safeguards – limiting the number of polling sites, and adopting in-person voting methods that limit personal contact, we prevent Mother Nature from disenfranchising Kentucky voters, while we also protect the lives of both our voters and our poll workers.”
“This plan is not vote-by-mail, West Coast-style,” Adams continued. “This plan has ballot integrity built in, and for the first time in a decade cleans up our voter rolls, a signal accomplishment.”
Here are the plan’s key points:
1. The “medical emergency” basis under current law for absentee voting will include “a reasonable fear of infection or transmission during a state of public health emergency declared by the Governor,” and the current requirement for a “medical emergency” absentee voter to notarize an application to vote absentee will be waived.
2. In-person early voting will be made available by June 8 and run through June 23. Voting practices will be conducted consistent with Centers for Disease Control guidance, with materials available for proper sanitization. Expanding the number of election days will help county clerks keep polling lines manageable. Voting methods will limit direct contact between individuals.
3. County clerks are permitted to significantly reduce the number of sites for in-person voting on election day, June 23, and are encouraged to use vote centers and to consolidate precincts. Voting practices will be conducted consistent with Centers for Disease Control guidance, with materials available for proper sanitization, and will limit direct contact between individuals.
4. The state will notify each registered voter by mail of the options to vote absentee.
5. The state will establish a secure online portal for the request of an absentee ballot by a registered voter, which will require the voter to prove identity with personally identifiable information. Voters may also use traditional methods to request an absentee ballot. Expanding the ease of obtaining a mail-in ballot will increase voter convenience and help county clerks keep polling lines manageable.
6. The state will establish a process for tracking absentee ballots requested, sent, and received.
7. Processing and counting of ballots may begin as soon as June 1, with counting to be completed by June 30. No results will be announced before 6 p.m. on June 23.
8. County clerks will match the signature on an absentee ballot envelope to the voter’s signature of record. Voters whose signatures do not match will be provided an opportunity to cure the mismatch.
9. In order to more expeditiously clean up its voter rolls, the state will proactively contact registered voters who have moved out-of-state in an effort to obtain permission to remove them from the rolls.
Secretary Adams reminds voters that the new Photo ID law will not yet be in effect for the June 23 elections.
Local county clerks have said they are having a conference call about the next steps and what will happen locally on Wednesday. The Sentinel-Echo will follow up with the details as those are made available.