Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams on Tuesday gave a state legislative panel an idea of how November’s general election might look amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“First, our primary election was a nationally-recognized success,” Adams said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. “With all the things Kentucky is at the bottom of in so many areas, today we are No. 1 in something. We had the highest turnout we have seen in many years. Most important, we kept people safe.”
While November’s plan is still being drafted, Adams said he envisions it consisting of a combination of some absentee voting; early, in-person voting; and voting on Election Day.
He said he is concerned expanding absentee voting — to the extent it was done for the May primary — could overwhelm county clerks and the U.S. Postal Service. Adams said he is more comfortable with having early, in-person voting to relieve potential crowds at polls on Election Day.
“Early voting worked,” Adams said. “Our county clerks are split on whether we should expand absentee voting in November, but they universally support in-person, early voting to help smooth out the number of voters over a period of weeks, rather than one day. This is a far less expensive and labor-intensive way to conduct an election.”
Adams said the state spent two-thirds of the CARES Act money it received for elections on May’s primary. He said that left only $2.5 million of CARES Act money for the November general election unless Congress approves additional funds.
“Let’s be clear, this is the most expensive election Kentucky has ever had,” Adams said of the primary.
He said it traditionally costs between $10 million and $11 million to hold general elections in Kentucky. Adams said COVID-19 precautions would increase that cost for the upcoming general election, but he could not name a price until the added precautions had been agreed upon. He then said that mail-in voting is the most expensive voting model.
Adams said the No. 1 complaint he received after the primary was a lack of polling locations on Election Day. He said he was exploring ways to combat that for the November election, including creating a formula requiring a minimum number of polling locations based on a county’s population and geography. Adams added that there have to be enough poll workers to operate the polls.