Coronavirus changing the way we vote, some changes could be for the better
From graduations and church services to government meetings and eating out at restaurants, COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we do things, and next Tuesday’s primary election in Kentucky is no exception.
Because of the coronavirus, the election is taking place in a quite a different format some of which is an improvement, quite frankly, over what we are used to.
During a typical Kentucky election, you are only supposed to go vote early via absentee ballot at the clerk’s office if you are going to be out of state on Election Day, such as working elsewhere, or will be unable to go to the polls that day because of surgery or something to that affect.
This isn’t to say that some people don’t just go vote early anyway. It’s not like you are going to be asked to produce a note from your doctor or employer before you do so.
Instead, anyone can go vote early for any reason at their county clerk’s office, and not just folks who are out of state or can’t get to the polls on Election Day due to an illness or something like that.
People that I have talked with and seen post about it on Facebook seem to be loving the early voting option.
It also looks like it is going to increase participation in the election at least locally, which is another good thing.
Whitley County Clerk Carolyn Willis initially predicted a voter turnout of less than 20 percent for the primary, but based up recent voting activity she is increasing that prediction to 30-35 percent voter turnout and thinks that it may even get as high as 40 percent.
Early voting is something that several states have gone to, and Kentucky should consider keeping it in the future.
Ordinarily on Election Day, the vast majority of voters travel to one of 36 voting precincts located throughout the county and cast their ballots sometime between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The vast majority of poll workers (four per precinct) are generally older, retired folks, who have a lot more free time than some of the rest of us. These are also people more susceptible to dying from coronavirus should they come down with it.
Because of this fact, many counties would have had trouble coming up with enough poll workers.
The solution that Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams came up with is the early voting in conjunction with reducing the number of polls open on Election Day. Whitley County will only have two voting locations open on Election Day, which will greatly reduce the number of poll workers that are needed. Knox and Laurel counties will also only have two physical voting locations that day.
One Whitley County voting location will be in the Whitley County High School gym and the other will be at the Corbin Primary School. While I would prefer to see more polling locations open, I suspect this is going to work pretty well.
Some of you probably remember the Republican Presidential Caucus, which was held in Kentucky four years ago. All voting in Whitley County took place on a Saturday at one centralized location, which was the Whitley County High School gym.
It seemed to go great. People were smiling and happy. There weren’t long lines.
The voting system being utilized for our primary election next week has also increased the number of people, who can ask that an absentee ballot be mailed to them. I am a little leerier about this aspect of it because of the potential for abuse, but registered voters have to actually request that a ballot be mailed to them.
Also, absentee ballots are already utilized and mailed to people in every election held in Kentucky.
For those still wanting to vote before Election Day but have to work during the week, the Whitley County Clerk’s Office will be open this Saturday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Corbin, and from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in Williamsburg for voting.
Something else people should take note of is that election results won’t be known after the polls close next Tuesday. Election officials in each county have to accept absentee ballots in the mail that are postmarked no later than June 23, and received up until 6 p.m. on June 27 in each county clerk’s office.