Kentucky Primary Offers Lessons That Must Be Addressed Before November

Statement of Richard Beliles, Common Cause Kentucky Board Chair

Today’s primary election went remarkably smoothly for most who made it to the polls but certainly not for all. And we don’t know how many never made it to the polls in the first place in an election where many counties – including those encompassing Louisville and Lexington – had only one polling location for voters. Too many Kentuckians never received the mail-in ballots they requested. As a result, many older voters and other citizens at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 had to choose between risking their safety or giving up their right to vote.

Governor Beshear and Secretary of State Adams made a good faith effort to make the best of the difficult task of holding an election in the middle of a pandemic. But now they must take the lessons learned from the primary and get things right for the general election when we will likely see even higher turnout. Both elected officials will need to exert their influence with Sen. McConnell, who as Senate Majority Leader must include significant amounts of additional funding in the next COVID-19 relief package to help states deal with the unprecedented challenges and expenses of holding elections during a pandemic.

The shortage of poll workers must be addressed. With older citizens, who have traditionally staffed our polling places, at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 then we need to recruit younger poll workers and we need to start recruiting them now. The shortage of poll workers led to a shortage of polling places which made it harder for poor and disabled citizens to get to the polls. That is a shortcoming that must be addressed.

We need to offer no excuse absentee voting for the general election and we need to build in enough time to get those requests in and mailed back to voters in plenty of time to vote. The Governor and the Secretary of State have the opportunity to build on what went right in the primary election and fix what went wrong in order to give every Kentuckian the opportunity to make their voice heard on election day. The time to seize that opportunity is now.