FRANKFORT, Ky. — 29 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in the 2020 Primary Election —second only to the 2008 primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton which drew 32 percent of voters.
Gov. Andy Beshear attributes that to the changes in the voting system which encouraged Kentuckians to stay home and vote by absentee ballot, a practice that is typically limited to only those who fit certain criteria.
"If you make voting easier, more people vote,” he said. "And yes, I think that we have to put those same conditions into place in November, both because we are still going to be dealing with this pandemic but we just had a great election.”
As states begin reopening, coronavirus cases are beginning to surge throughout the country once again while Kentucky’s cases have remained stable throughout the reopening restrictions will likely have to remain in place to help control the virus; increasing the chances that November’s election will have to see changes from the traditional voting model.
“That doesn’t mean it will exact same way, we may do it differently,” said Secretary of State Micheal Adams. “We may have more early voting and less vote by mail. I've got some options, I want to look at the evidence, I want to look at how things worked. I want to get into a deep dive of all the election results over the next month or two.”
Adams says he hopes to have a decision on if — and how— voting will need to be altered by Labor Day.
The vast majority of Kentuckians chose to vote by mail, 744,507 of the more than 1 million people to cast their ballots. Beshear indicated this is something he would like to see used again in November.
“I can’t imagine, whether it’s the secretary of state or others, why we would intentionally go backward, knowing it's gonna be harder for people to vote,” he said.
Adams has two concerns with mail-in voting, he says it opens up the chance for election fraud, but acknowledges Kentucky did not see massive voter fraud in the 2020 primary in part because of the methods used. Adams also has concerns with costs associated with mail-in voting.
"This is a very expensive way to have an election, it is going to increase our costs by millions of dollars to have offered this option,” he said.
Adam does not know the final cost associated with the primary election but estimates it will be between $2-3 million.
"Every one of these absentee ballots cost about a buck to send out about to send back and we pay for the postage both ways, not even counting the printing costs or other related costs like the man-hour of all the clerks, to bring in staff, a lot of them hired temps,” he said.
While the Democrat Beshear and Republican Adams worked together to formulate the pandemic voting procedures it appears they are split on how they would like to go forward — at least on some things. Both Beshear and Adams say they would like to see polling hours extended — polls close in Kentucky at 6 PM, tied with Indiana as the earliest in the nation.
“We have to acclimate to reality and alter those hours it may be that we make them longer on election day. It may be that we have more days to vote. And it may be both,” Adams said. "To me, that's a better accommodation than going to a vote by mail system”
To extend the polling hours anything past one hour for all future elections would cause a constitutional amendment something Beshear says he would like to see.
“We ought to do that,” he said." And while we're looking at constitutional amendments, let's enshrine the restoration of voting rights, so that it's not dependent on a governor and his executive order.”
Beshear says he would also like to add more polling places in large cities, Jefferson County and Fayette County only had one polling location —which caused a two-hour line for voters in Fayette County. Adams agrees more polling locations will be necessary for the November election but acknowledges it is unlikely they will be able to have enough poll workers to have 3,700 locations open.
However, the elections will look in November county clerks hope they have ample time to prepare.
"My hope is they don't wait to make that decision because it was heavy this primary,” said Bobbie Holsclaw, Jefferson County Clerk, “ Only imagine what it's going to be in a general.”