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Kentuckians take advantage of early voting ahead of midterm election

Polling locations, like this one at Shelby Traditional Academy in Louisville, are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time for the May 17 primary.
Polling locations, like this one at Shelby Traditional Academy in Louisville, are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time for the May 17 primary.

Kentuckians have been able to hit the polls early this year after a new law created three days of early in-person voting, including Saturday. Many voters and officials say having more options and days to vote has led to shorter lines and easier access.

Keith Bays, who works 14-hour days as a trucking terminal manager, said early voting was a boon. He and his family voted early in Boyd County on Saturday morning. He said he was in and out of the booth in 15 minutes

“Just common sense would tell you it's easier to do something on a weekend than it is to try to work it into already hectic schedules during the week with children and work obligations. So Saturday voting was a huge improvement for me personally, as a working person,” he said.

Bays said he’s always been a committed voter and used to have to make sure he could make it to the polls on a Tuesday, even if it meant missing work. But this time, he didn’t have to worry about that.

“I'm so happy not to have to do that anymore. It's definitely a godsend for people that do have to work the type of schedule that I have to work,” he said.

According to Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, 253,018 Kentuckians voted during the three-day window for no-excuse in-person voting.  The total includes 121,280 Republicans, 117,576 Democrats, and 14,162 Independents.

Adams said turnout has been strong so far.

“Early voting doesn’t favor one side, it just helps the voters. We’re still not done reforming elections, and after this election concludes, I’ll offer ideas for improving future ones,” he said in a statement.

There’s still one more day to cast ballots–Election Day, which has been on a Tuesday since 1845. Kentuckians have been able to vote absentee early if they have an excuse, but in 2020 the state radically expanded voting access during the coronavirus pandemic, adding three weeks of early voting.

The Republican-led state Legislature declined to preserve all of those policies, but passed a bill allowing people to vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before an election. 

ACLU Kentucky’s Legal Director Corey Shapiro said there’s plenty of ways the process could be better and smoother, like setting up more early voting locations in densely populated areas.

“In Fayette County, there was only one location for the entire county. I think that makes it extremely burdensome on folks who want to take advantage of early voting. They can expand those options and counties should be thinking about ways to make it as easy as possible to vote,” he said.

Shapiro also said lawmakers should add more early voting days and expand hours when polls are open.

“There are all sorts of creative ways that our Legislature and our election officials could be thinking about how to make sure as many people as possible can vote,” he said.

The final day of voting, Election Day, is Tuesday, Nov.  8. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., local time. Voters who are in line at 6 p.m., will be allowed to vote. Double check your polling location at govoteky.com.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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