With the Nov. 3 election over, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams took time Wednesday to share his thoughts on the unprecedented election year with local Rotarians. This year saw a five-week delay of the primary, expanded absentee voting and many adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of that, there’s some changes that Adams would like to see continue.
The Paducah native was this week’s guest speaker for the Rotary Club of Paducah’s virtual meeting, where he reflected on his experiences, bipartisan negotiations with Gov. Andy Beshear and the lessons learned overall, before taking questions. In particular, Adams explained four election changes he plans to ask the state legislature to keep, moving forward.
“I think we’re all very proud of you and the way you’ve conducted this election,” Rotary President Barry Smith said, noting the positive comments made virtually by Rotarians.
“As Kentuckians, we’re grateful and proud that you worked together to make it a smooth, smooth election and appreciate your service to the commonwealth.”
During his presentation, Adams discussed the state’s absentee ballot request portal, which enabled voters to request ballots online, instead of having to contact their local county clerk’s office. It’s a change he’d like to keep.
“It used to be that if you wanted to vote absentee, as I have done for most elections in my life, you had to call the county clerk and fill out some paperwork,” he said. “That’s a bit of a hassle. It’s a lot easier to do this from the comfort of your home and do it online, but it’s also more secure.”
He said it gives the voter convenience and it’s easier for the clerk’s office, before noting that call volumes for clerks were “insane” this year and the portal worked to reduce that, as it was centralized in Frankfort. It also allows voters the ability to track ballots online and it’s more secure for his office.
“The second thing I want to keep is the cure process,” Adams said.
Curing a ballot involves a voter fixing an error made on their own ballot, such as a signature mismatch. Adams shared there was about a 4% fail rate in the primary election, which he described as “pretty good” and that was about half of what it was two years ago.
“On the other hand, we had so many voters voting absentee (in the primary) that, that still came to about 30,000 ballots thrown out, which was a big number that spooked some people, including me,” Adams said.
“So, we had a cure process in the primary that was just for signature mismatches. We expanded the cure process in November for every type of voter error.”
Adams wants to make it by state statute to where clerks or the county board of elections have to contact voters and give them a chance to fix the mistake, or cure their ballot.
“We were able to get the fail rate to 0.4% in the general election,” he said.
“Again, 30% voted absentee and still, of those, only 0.4% had to be invalid because we were able to reach the other people that made mistakes and they were able to cure their mistakes. We really ought to keep that permanent. There’s no benefit to either party with this. It’s just helping people get their votes counted.”
A third change Adams wants to keep is having vote centers as an option for voters. They are locations where registered voters don’t have to go their specific precinct to cast ballots and they can vote in the centralized location, as long as they live in that county. For McCracken County, the election’s vote center was at the McCracken County Courthouse.
In the end, Adams said that the fourth and “maybe the biggest” change would be to keep some of the early in-person voting.
“I don’t support three weeks to vote in every election,” he said.
“That was a pretty unique solution to a pretty unique problem for this election, but I do like the added convenience of having at least a few days before Election Day to let people go vote in person.”
Adams said the state saw a “somewhat light to steady” turnout when polls were open in the weeks before Election Day, but in the few days before it, there was a big turnout. He likes the idea of keeping those few early voting days before the election, especially Saturday.
“I’ve already spoken with President (Robert) Stivers of the State Senate,” he said.
“I’m meeting tomorrow morning with Speaker (David) Osborne of the House and I’ve gotten, so far, good comments back and hoping to actually get a bill in development here pretty soon. So, those are the big four proponents I’d like to keep.”