Daviess County absentee ballots have surged during the 2018 general election season. Just under 1,400 absentee ballots were cast in Daviess County during the 2014 general election and as of 1 p.m. yesterday, Daviess County Chief Deputy Clerk Richard House said his office already received 1,349 absentee ballots, with more expected to come in the last days before the election.
House says this jump in absentee ballots could be a result of two factors — more registered voters and an absentee ballot voting machine available in the courthouse this year.
During 2014 there were 69,806 registered voters in Daviess County and House said there are 74,697 registered voters this year. With nearly 5,000 more voters for the 2018 general election, House said this could explain some of the upswing in absentee voting.
This is also the first general election that the County Clerk’s office has offered an absentee voting machine for people based on advanced age, disability or illness. Prior to this year, voters that fit one of these categories had to follow standard absentee voting regulations which state a person must call the clerk’s office and request an application for an absentee ballot. The clerk’s office must then mail the application to the voter, which the voter must fill out, sign and mail back to the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office then mails the absentee ballot within three days of receiving the completed application.
It is because of this lengthy process that the Daviess County Clerk’s Office set the deadline for all absentee ballot applications for yesterday. House also said this process is usually what keeps absentee ballots down. Earlier this year the state legislature passed a bill allowing county clerk’s offices to email applications for absentee ballots, but it was later vetoed by Governor Matt Bevin.
“It would have sped up the process a lot,” House said, adding that often out-of-state college students take three to four days to receive the application by mail, cutting down the turnaround time for voting.
Voters must have a reason for requiring an absentee ballot, House said, which includes students or “snowbirds” living out of state, women in their last trimester of pregnancy and overseas military personnel. According to House, citizens often confuse absentee voting with early voting, which does not require a reason. House said while Kentucky does not offer early voting, neighboring states like Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee do.
“Many people hear about early voting on TV news and think they can vote early in Daviess County,” House said.
Regardless of the surge in absentee ballots and the higher number of registered voters, House said voter turnout is on track to match 2014 general election turnout, which was 46.8 percent.