In light of the response in the June primary election to the addition of early, in person voting and excuse–free absentee ballots, Democratic legislators have announced that they plan to introduce a number of bills to make those additions a permanent option when Kentucky voters.
It is time.
Before the full plan for the primary election was released, Whitley County Clerk Carolyn Willis was predicting approximately 10 to 15 percent of registered voters would turn out to the polls.
While there was no gubernatorial race, and the Republicans and Democrats had both picked their presidential candidates, there were a number of races on the ballot, including state representative.
The fact that it was the primary meant only the republicans would be voting in what was essentially the race for the seat.
However, the race had become hotly contested.
Incumbent Regina Huff and challenger Matt Anderson are both well known in the county, which should have led to more interest, especially since Whitley County is a republican dominated county.
Then Willis announced the changes that Governor Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams had agreed upon to hold the election in the face of the COVID–19 pandemic.
Voting on election day would be limited to just a few polling locations.
In an effort to ensure voters had an ample opportunity to cast a ballot, early in-person voting was made an option.
Walk into the clerk’s office during office hours Monday through Friday and vote. In and out in three to four minutes according to Willis.
In an effort to make it even more convenient, the clerk’s office added Saturday hours leading up to the election.
With Whitley County’s unique situation, voters were able to cast a ballot at either the main office in Williamsburg, or the satellite office in Corbin.
Then there was the change to absentee voting.
Unlike previous elections, a voter didn’t have to be going out of town or otherwise unable to go to the polls on election day in order to be able to cast an absentee ballot.
Simply call or go online and request a ballot be mailed. Ballot arrives. Voters completes it, signs it and sends it back.
For those who were concerned about the ballot arriving in Williamsburg, Virginia, or one of more than 25 cities and towns named Williamsburg across the U.S. as opposed to Williamsburg, Kentucky, secure drop boxes were placed at both offices where ballots could be hand delivered.
Score a win for both access to the polls and a secure election.
While some states have elected to send a ballot to every registered voter listed on the voter rolls, Kentucky opted to only send ballots to voters that requested one.
Another win for both access to the polls and a secure election.
On election day, the numerous polling locations typically seen across the county and the state were condensed to a single location in each county.
Willis took some initiative with Whitley County to add a location at Corbin Primary School along with the location at Whitley County High School.
All of these changes resulted in voter turnout running at more than 30 percent with more than 7,000 votes being cast.
While the changes, especially in the polling locations, didn’t go as well in other parts, of the state, generally, the revised process was well received.
There are some other changes the legislators are proposing. Some good, and some not so good.
- They want to expand voting hours to 7 p.m.
- Offer a permanent way for a voter who has incorrectly filled out an absentee ballot to have it corrected.
Both are good ideas. The more eligible voters who cast ballots, the better it is for our county, state, country and republic.
When a clerk opens a ballot and finds a mistake such as two candidates marked in the same race, there should be a way to correct it so the voter’s ballot is correctly cast. A simple phone call may be enough to resolve it.
- Citizens having input into redistricting. Looking at Kentucky’s congressional map or legislative map will make your head spin.
I challenge fifth grade teachers to give their students a crack at drawing the next legislative maps. My cohort Mark White said he believes third grade students would be up to the task. It has to be better and cleaner than what we currently have.
My second option would be to let a computer do it. Tell it how many people should be in each district. Feed it the 2020 census information Use county lines, city limits, natural barriers such as rivers, etc. as boundaries, and go to it.
There are a few other items that I’m not on board with such as automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and automatic restoration of voting rights for felons.
Those are items that can be debated and discussed.
I’m hoping the Republican leadership in the legislature, and Gov. Beshear are willing to sit down and have a rational discussion about this. We will just have to wait and see.