(OpEd By Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams)
In the midst of a global health pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), as a Democratic Governor and a Republican Secretary of State we have proven that we can put partisanship aside to make our elections safer for our people.
We know that working across the aisle to reach a bipartisan agreement, regardless of where you live from Washington, D.C. to Frankfort, Kentucky, during any year, certainly an election year, is all too rare.
We don’t always agree, but we have no disagreement when it comes to protecting the health of Kentuckians during this pandemic, while making sure they are able to exercise their patriotic duty to vote.
On Aug. 14, we announced an agreement to give Kentuckians more options to vote safely leading up to and on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.
We put politics aside – there was no political “horse-trading.” We knew we had to get this right for the people of Kentucky.
This was not the first time we’ve worked together for Kentucky’s benefit. Earlier this year when the coronavirus was intensifying in the commonwealth, we jointly delayed party primaries and then quickly reached an agreement to allow those concerned about their health to vote absentee.
The result of our agreement, we had near record turnout. We had the commonwealth’s highest primary turnout in 12 years – with both Democrats and Republicans taking advantage of voting options that helped to keep them safe.
We believe the primary was largely successful because we worked together in a bipartisan fashion. That bipartisanship not only led to a better product, with concerns on both sides accommodated, but it also showed all voters that our new election rules were fair, legitimate and credible.
The plan was not perfect, but we learned from that experience.
Our plan for the general election keeps the best of what worked in the June primary, especially giving voters options to safely cast their votes, and it makes improvements where necessary, including pushing for more in-person voting locations and faster election results.
During this pandemic, Kentuckians will have more than just 12 hours to vote at one polling place on Election Day.
Our plan includes:
Expanded absentee voting – Kentuckians who are concerned about in-person voting due to the coronavirus can request an absentee ballot online at www.GoVoteKy.com or through other methods, all of which require voter identity verification. Voters can return their ballots by mail, or put them in drop boxes we’re distributing, a first for our state.
Early in-person voting – In order to reduce lines and further social distancing, we’re offering three weeks of early in-person voting, including Saturdays, also a first for our state.
Election Day voting – While not every precinct will be open on Election Day, because, for example, some of our regular voting locations are nursing homes, Kentuckians are stepping up to serve as poll workers so that we can open as many locations as possible. Our plan requires every county to have at least one vote center, where anyone from that county can go vote, regardless of his or her precinct – another reform for our state.
Finally, Kentuckians who are unable to get a photo ID to vote due to the pandemic – whether because of risk of exposure to COVID-19, or because their clerk’s office was closed – can sign a document explaining this concern, present non-photo ID and cast their ballots.
We know that there is still a lot of work ahead, including educating Kentuckians on their options and working with local election officials on the implementation.
With all the options available for Kentuckians to vote safely, we are confident that we will see high voter turnout in November, just as we saw in our primary.
In June, we created a national model both for how to enable people to vote safely and for how leaders should work together.
To forge the framework for a safe, successful and historic general election, we have already overcome the largest impediment – partisanship.