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How to vote in the May 17 primary if you have COVID-19

A room filled with voting booths.
Kentucky's primary election is May 21.

COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Jefferson County just one week before the primary election on May 17. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who’ve contracted COVID-19, or unvaccinated people with a close contact, should stay home for at least five days since a positive test or the onset of symptoms. But with so many important races on the ballot — from state representatives to Louisville mayor — some residents may be tempted to break quarantine to participate in the primaries. 

Fortunately, local elections officials are offering ways to vote safely.

Erran Huber, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, said  a COVID-19 infection is considered a valid excuse for absentee voting. And in Kentucky, voters can recruit close family members to help them exercise their democratic right.

“Obviously, if someone has COVID, we do want them to stay home,” Huber said. “But in a medical emergency, an absentee ballot application can be delivered by a voter’s spouse, parents or children.”

If a voter with a medical emergency within two weeks of an election doesn’t have a spouse, parents or children, the application can also be requested by their brother, sister, niece, nephew or any other designee. 

Applications to take advantage of absentee voting can be picked up at and returned to the Clerk’s Election Center at 1000 E. Liberty Street. Mail-in absentee ballots can normally be requested online, but that option won’t be available this close to the election. 

Huber said an important note about absentee applications is that they must be notarized under state law.

“We want to make sure that somebody’s application form is on the up-and-up,” he said. “It’s part of our election security measures. And, fortunately, the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office is the government agency that handles notaries.”

Huber said Clerk's Office employees can help a voter or their designee get their application notarized at their professional licenses office within Metro Hall, 527 W. Jefferson Street.

Once the Clerk's Office has a completed application, they’ll provide a voter or their designee with a ballot that can be filled out at home. Since the election is so close, the ballot will need to be returned directly to their office by 6 p.m. on May 17. 

If someone is isolating and doesn’t want to come into close contact with elections officials, drop boxes are available until May 14 at the Election Center, or one of the six early voting locations:

  • The Jeffersonian, at 10617 Taylorsville Road in Jeffersontown
  • The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, at 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. in Louisville
  • Broadbent Arena at the Kentucky Exposition Center, at 937 Phillips Lane in Louisville
  • Sun Valley Community Center, at 6505 Bethany Lane in Louisville
  • The Triple Crown Pavilion, at 1780 Plantside Drive in Louisville
  • Mary Queen of Peace, at 4017 Dixie Highway in Louisville

Applications and absentee ballots will also be available at the Election Center from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 17. 

Huber said the Clerk’s Office is committed to helping people exercise their right to vote, no matter the circumstances.

“It’s sidelined so many other things in our lives, so we want to make sure that COVID-19 doesn’t have the chance to sideline this primary election,” he said. “We’ve got our people in place to serve anybody who has a medical emergency, like a COVID infection, and needs their ballot.”

Any resident with questions about how to vote in the upcoming primary can contact the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office at (502) 574-6100 or elections@jeffersoncountyclerk.org.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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