Months before an election, state and local election officials plan and prepare tirelessly to protect the safety and integrity of our elections. Now, less than 100 days before a general election that will take place amid a global pandemic, election officials across the nation are preparing to conduct an election in conditions unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
As chairman of the Kentucky Board of Elections, I know we are ready to meet this challenge. But we can’t do it alone.
While the bipartisan efforts of county and state officials, including Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary Michael Adams were crucial to the success of the primary election, its overall success was contingent on funding, specifically federal funding. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the federal government distributed $400 million nationwide to assist local and state election authorities in carrying out their duties during this pandemic. Thanks to this funding, the commonwealth was able to ensure the procurement and delivery of critical election equipment and materials, providing our citizens safe and secure access to the ballot.
However, this funding, while sufficient for the needs of the primary election now leaves a significant shortfall for the continued needs the commonwealth will have in November’s General Election, for which we are expecting record breaking turnout. With many more polling locations expected to be open this November and a continued need to purchase vital and necessary supplies, including PPE and other materials necessary to run a successful election during a pandemic, we’ll need additional funding to ensure that all Kentuckians can cast their vote securely and safely.
When I served as a member of Congress, I took pride in working across the aisle to ensure that party differences did not create barriers to effective governance. During the best of times, Republicans and Democrats should work side by side to serve the greater needs of this nation. In difficult times, cooperation and bipartisanship become nothing short of a moral imperative.
Fair, accessible elections are the lynchpin of our democracy. With Congress currently considering another round of federal relief, it is vital they allocate adequate funding to our nation’s election officials if we are to ensure the integrity of the ballot and the security of our democracy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Americans to endure tremendous hardship and make many sacrifices, but the safety and integrity of our elections should never be one of them. Political infighting and party differences must be set aside as we did in the commonwealth during the primary election. Our representatives in Congress must act now to provide the critical funding necessary to preserve the integrity of our electoral process. Let Kentucky’s motto and our bipartisan efforts in safeguarding our primary election provide the example: “United we stand, divided we fall.” This motto rings just as true for our nation as a path forward as it does for our beloved commonwealth.
Ben Chandler is chairman of the Kentucky Board of Elections and the president/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.