Kentucky voters will all be allowed to vote by mail for the primary election that was moved to June 23 in response to COVID-19.
That’s good news for Caldwell County voters who have a handful of races to decide, including Republican and Democratic nominees for U.S. Senate and a special election for District 1 Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge. Democrats, technically, will be able to vote for a presidential nominee from 10 candidates on the ballot, but only Joe Biden remains in the race.
Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday issued an executive order that outlines the election procedures to be in place in June and the Kentucky State Board of Elections later set its regulations to vote by mail through an absentee ballot.
“Voters across the political spectrum will be pleased with this plan to protect both democracy and public health,” Secretary of State Michael Adams said.
Caldwell County Clerk Toni Watson said there will be options for both in-person and mail-in ballots, though how it will all work is unclear. At press time, she was awaiting more information on how local elections will take place, but the county’s top election official ensures voters of election integrity.
“It’s going to be different,” she said Friday, “but it will be a fair and honest election like we always have.”
And the health emergency has also extended the registration deadline for the June 23 election. Voters now have until May 26 to register either in-person with the county clerk or online at GoVoteKy.com.
Due to the pandemic, all voters qualify for the state’s “medical emergency” that allows a vote by absentee ballot. The state will notify each registered voter by mail of the options to vote absentee.
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.
“This plan is not vote-by-mail, West Coast-style,” Adams said. “This plan has ballot integrity built in.”
In-person early voting will take place June 8-23. Expanding the number of election days will help keep polling lines manageable. County clerks are permitted to reduce the number of sites for in-person voting on election day and are encouraged to use vote centers and to consolidate precincts. Caldwell County has 13 poll locations, and it is not yet clear if Watson plans to trim down that number.
“Through expanding absentee voting — with appropriate safeguards — limiting the number of polling sites, and adopting in-person voting methods that limit personal contact,” said Adams, “we prevent Mother Nature from disenfranchising Kentucky voters, while we also protect the lives of both our voters and our poll workers.”
Kentucky’s new Photo ID law will not yet be in effect for the June 23 elections.
The Times Leader and The Associated Press contributed to this story.