FRANKFORT — The State Board of Elections on Friday unanimously adopted an emergency administrative regulation that will allow Kentucky’s primary election to be conducted largely by absentee ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, Gov. Andy Beshear, upon the recommendation of Secretary of State Michael Adams, issued an executive order moving the primary from May 19 to June 23.
Upon further recommendation of Adams, the governor issued another executive order on April 24, directing the State Board of Elections to promulgate an emergency regulation to expand absentee voting by mail and recommending all Kentuckians to utilize voting by mail, if at all possible.
During the meeting, which was conducted via Zoom, Board of Elections Chairman Ben Chandler stated they have two goals: “Number one, we want to make sure that every citizen of this state has access to the ballot. That everybody is able to vote, and hopefully vote rather easily. The second goal is to ensure the safety of all of our people.”
Chandler noted there has been a virtual impossibility of getting poll workers.
“Many of our poll workers are older and vulnerable to the coronavirus. We don’t want to put them in any jeopardy. We have 120 county clerks and their staff across the state who we also want protect and keep well, and we have the voters throughout the commonwealth whose safety we want to assure.”
Under the new regulation, which will only be in effect for the primary, the State Board of Elections will establish a secure online portal by May 22, that will allow voters to request an absentee ballot through submission of personally identifiable information. As soon as that portal is live, the SBE will send a non-forwarding postcard to every registered voter in Kentucky informing them of the changes in procedures as well as the address of the secure online portal.
Starting immediately, county clerks’ offices will accept phone appointments for in-person absentee and Election Day voting at the clerk’s office or another designated site. Such voting will begin by June 8.
May 15 will be the deadline for County Boards of Elections to appoint precinct election officials for the limited polling locations that will be open on Election Day.
June 1 will be the deadline for County Boards to appoint members of the bi-partisan absentee ballot processing committee, which will aid the clerks’ offices in counting the mail-in ballots. That committee must complete its work by June 30.
June 15 is the deadline for voters to request ballots by mail, although they can still get one at the clerks’ offices after that date, while clerks’ office must mail requested ballots to voters by June 16.
All main-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by June 23 and clerks can accept them through June 27.
June 30 will be the deadline for county clerks to transmit vote totals to the Secretary of State’s office and July 7 will be the last day to request a recanvass of a race.
The State Board of Elections also approved spending up to $1.2 million to cover postage costs of returning ballots by mail, so voters don’t have to buy a stamp, and spending another $1 million to allow county clerks to hire additional staff for the four week period leading up to the election.