So, what lessons can we take away from Tuesday’s election?
By far, the biggest is that giving voters additional means to cast their ballot other than on election day is an effective way to increase turnout.
I’m still not a fan of mail in ballots, or at least returning ballots by mail. Just too many things that could go wrong, particularly when you factor in the U.S. Mail.
One prime example recently occurred with the Kentucky Press Association. Each year, the organization holds a contest that calls for member publications to submit stories, photos, columns and pages in a competition to determine the best among newspapers.
Lo and behold, nine packets of submissions for the 2015 Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers competition arrived with the mail just last week. Specifically, June 15, 2020
Keep in mind, these packets, mailed from places like Murray, Middlesboro, Mayfield, Henderson and Harlan, were mailed in time to meet the deadline of October 2015.
To be eligible for a particular contest year, the submissions must have been published by September 30, and must be submitted by the end of October. Where these packets, from all over the state, have been for the last five years is a mystery.
Most of us have experienced, or know someone who has experienced issues with a package lost in the mail. It is the nature of business. To be fair, FedEx, UPS, DHL have all sent packages to the wrong places as well.
Airlines lose luggage all the time, sending it to different cities, countries, and in some cases, continents.
To help mitigate that possibility, the Whitley County Clerk’s office gave voters, who had received a ballot by mail, the option to bring it to either the Williamsburg or Corbin office and drop it in a secured ballot box.
Also new in this election was the option for anyone wishing to do so to vote early. Whitley County had locations in Corbin and Williamsburg to make it easier. Living in Laurel County, my wife and I made the drive to London several weeks ago and cast our ballots. In and out in about 10 minutes.
The poll workers took our ID’s, determined the appropriate ballots, and set us up to vote. Back in Whitley County, Clerk Carolyn Willis at one time anticipated the additional voting options could push turnout as high as 40 percent. Before the changes, she had predicted that a turnout above 20 percent would have been considered good.
I would like to see a few more polling places on election day. In Whitley County, and Laurel County the ideal solution would hopefully involve using the respective elementary schools as they have substantial parking and room in their cafeterias or gyms.
Some good has definitely come out of the delay in the election. We saw Democrat and Republican officials (Governor Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron) reach a compromise on the best way to hold the election. We found some novel ways to increase voter turnout, or at least give more voters the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Hopefully, the General Assembly will look into making some of these changes permanent. And, if it could also address how to move the state-wide election to coincide with the presidential elections, that would be a bonus. On that, I’m asking for a miracle.