The State Board of Elections met Tuesday to continue preparations for what is likely to be the most unusual election in Kentucky history due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chairman Ben Chandler repeated their goal is to have as many people as possible vote by absentee mail-in ballot for the primary election, which was delayed from May 26 to June 23.
“We’re having trouble getting poll workers, which shouldn’t surprise anybody, and we want to make sure that not only the poll workers who are necessary but the administrative staff at the county clerk offices and the voting public are safe,” he said.
Chandler also acknowledged the county clerks have to be able to accommodate those who vote in-person absentee, as well as those who want to vote on Election Day itself, so each of the 120 county clerks were to submit a plan to the state Board of Elections for approval.
Executive Director Jared Dearing told the board members, “We are currently at around 90-plus counties with a little less than 30 more to come in. We are in contact with those counties who are still making their plans as we speak.”
Chandler said they all appreciate and understand the issues the clerks find themselves facing. “They are trying to do their everyday business that they do on behalf of the people of this state and, at the same time, trying to manage an election in circumstances that they’ve never faced before.”
Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe said she understood many of the board members have been getting political pushback on the decisions that have been made, and expressed optimism. “As long as we plan and move forward, everybody has options here and, as long as we stress those options, we should all be good.”
However, she said, “I’m still trying to contact poll workers for election day. I’m still trying to work out logistics on how to have people call my office and set up appointments, without having to buy a lot of software and making it complicated, because you have to talk people through the process.”
Although the state Board of Elections has not yet opened the web portal for people to request absentee ballots, nor have the postcards gone out to every registered voter instructing them how to apply for a mail-in ballot online, which is expected around Friday, Summe says she has already been inundated with absentee ballot requests.
“I am already at 4,000 or 5,000 ballots,” she said. “If I have 50% of Kenton County voters, I’m looking at 60,000 ballots. I normally only get 3,000 ballots for a presidential general election.”
Summe also asked the state board to come up with contingency plans if the web portal crashes, or how to accommodate those who have no email or internet access.
Dearing said he was working on putting together educational videos to help voters, most of whom have never cast an absentee ballot.
The board plans to call a special meeting to approve each county’s election plans once the rest of the clerks submit them to Frankfort.