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Ky. Secretary of State Michael Adams calls for more voting locations

Ten minutes before polls in closed in Jefferson County during the November 2020 presidential election.
Ryan Van Velzer
/
Ten minutes before polls in closed in Jefferson County during the November 2020 presidential election.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams called for increasing the number of voting locations during a Wednesday debrief of the November election.

Adams spoke in front of the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs, where state lawmakers derided long lines at some voting locations during last year’s general election.

Last year’s election was the first since the Legislature passed a series of reforms expanding early voting, establishing countywide vote centers and transitioning toward universal paper ballots.

Immediately following the election, Adams said voters turned out in record numbers, but after the final count came in, less than 42% of eligible voters had cast a ballot, according to the State Board of Elections.

Republican lawmakers including Rep. Russell Webber of Shepherdsville and Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville shared stories of lines wrapping around buildings and limited parking at some voting locations.

“I think what we saw was an absolute abomination,” Nemes said of one voting location in Oldham County. “You talk about suppression of the vote, well their vote’s suppressed.”

State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Sellers agreed with lawmakers, saying that there were long lines at many voting locations across the state. Other challenges included difficulties finding poll workers, an exceptionally long ballot, and many counties using new technologies for the first time, she said.

“To sum up, the November 2022 general election encompassed a lot of extensive electoral changes enacted by the General Assembly,” she said.

Adding Voting locations

More than 250,000 voters took advantage of the three days of early voting. Those that cast an early ballot hewed close with the partisan affiliation of voters: Republicans with a little less than 50%, followed closely by Democrats then Independents, Adams said.

“The counties that had long lines on Tuesday, Nov. 8 would have had even longer lines had their voters not already had three days to vote,” Adams said.

Nonetheless, Adams said the appropriate solution is to add more voting locations rather than add more voting days.

Adams said a statewide official should be in charge of reviewing statewide election plans and that the law should set a minimum number of voting locations. He also said the state should encourage counties to add more voting locations when they ask for election funding. As it stands, the law creates a “perverse incentive,” he said.

“Carroll County was given a grant of $2,805 based on a formula of $255 per precinct for their 11 precincts, however in that election they only opened one precinct,” Adams said. “If a county opens one voting location, it should not be compensated as though it opened 11.”

Adams also said the state’s revised process for recounting and re-canvassing votes was misused by “bad faith actors” to cast doubt on the integrity of state elections. More should be done to stop frivolous lawsuits who lack evidence of fraud or corruption and lose by wide margins, he said.

“Although none of these changes [are] major they are all important,” Adams said. “I would submit that an election year, especially one in which we expect close outcomes in major races, is exactly the time to make these modest but crucial improvements.”

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.