County Clerk Julie Griggs

Julie Griggs

Kentucky voters are now urged to mail in June primary ballots through expanded absentee voting, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order Friday, stating all Kentuckians should vote by mail if they’re able to do so for the June 23 primary election. The Kentucky State Board of Elections will send postcards to registered voters about the process and create an online portal where voters can request a ballot, according to the order.

“Gov. Beshear and Secretary of State (Michael) Adams have determined a way to move forward with the June 23 primary election,” McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs said.

“At this time, we know that the plan will include absentee mail-in ballots, which is a process we currently use in Kentucky. The requirements to request this type of ballot will be lifted due to COVID-19, in order for every registered voter in Kentucky to be able to vote by mail-in ballot.”

Griggs said the regulations are being developed by the state board with consultation from Adams and it’s still going on at this time.

“I will be sure to post information on how to request your ballot and additional election information as soon as it becomes available,” she said. “McCracken County Board of Elections will review this information, once the regulations are approved, to develop the best possible process considering the current situation.”

However, Griggs said the online portal for requesting ballots could take several weeks to get ready. She encouraged residents to go ahead and contact the clerk’s office if they want to request a ballot.

“We have never seen anything like this,” she said, about the changes. “We’re used to dealing with mail-in absentee ballots, but nothing of this magnitude.”

In an election with heavy turnout, she estimated the clerk’s office might have between 1,000 to 2,000 mail-in ballots. There are more than 50,000 registered voters in McCracken County, so the changes could mean tens of thousands of mailed-in ballots.

“I would have expected a pretty heavy turnout,” she said. “I really think that this method of voting — the mail-in voting — I’m kind of thinking it may have a negative impact on our number of ballots that we get back. I think voter turnout this way may be a little less than normal.”

In Beshear’s order, the Board of Elections is tasked with taking steps to ensure safety for county clerks and poll workers when direct voting is necessary, such as allowing in-person absentee voting to start June 8, directing clerks to prioritize these voters by appointment and providing personal protective equipment and materials.

Griggs anticipates one centralized location on Election Day.

According to Adams’ office, in-person early voting can start June 8 and run through June 23, while county clerks are allowed to “significantly” reduce the number of sites for in-person voting on Election Day. They’re encouraged to use vote centers and to consolidate precincts.

Voting practices should be consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance and materials will be available for “proper sanitization.” It will also limit direct contact between people.

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