FRANKFORT, Ky. — Any Kentucky voter will be able to cast their ballot by mail in the November election, Gov. Andy Beshear and Sec. of State Michael Adams announced Friday.
Eligible voters will be able to request a mail-in absentee ballot through an online portal, possibly by next Friday, through Oct. 9. Votes will be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, and received by Nov. 6. Those concerned with postal delays will have the option to use ballot drop boxes, which will be placed by county clerks.
The governor said he and Adams reached an agreement Friday that will be enacted via executive order. Adams explained that the order expands state absentee voting requirements so that people can request a ballot if they fear that voting in person could expose them to COVID-19.
Part of the order includes a "robust" early voting policy, where Kentuckians can vote in-person starting Oct. 13. Anyone can vote early, for any reason, every work day between Oct. 13 and Election Day and each Saturday for a four-hour period.
Additionally, those who were unable to get a driver’s license or photo ID because their clerk’s office was closed due to COVID-19, or because they were afraid of exposing themselves to COVID-19, can sign a document explaining this concern and cast a ballot.
It will be up to county officials where election sites will be on Election Day, as long as their plan is approved by state leaders. Every county will have at least one "voting super-center" where everyone from the county can go to vote regardless of precinct.
“I think that this agreement takes the best of what we did previously, it spots the kinks in what we did previously that in practice didn’t work as well, and it improves on what we had in the past,” Adams said at a Friday press briefing with Beshear.
In the wake of recent calls to block post office funding by President Donald Trump, Adams said the plan to open the absentee ballot request portal early and add drop boxes will ease the strain on the post office.
“The fact is, they’ve got a hard job to do, and every industry, every organization public and private, has been impacted by COVID-19,” he said.
“If we undermine the postal service, we crush rural communities,” Beshear added.
But under the plan, Adams and Beshear expect to have the “vast majority” of votes and ballots counted by election night.
Beshear: COVID-19 cases plateauing, but not declining
Beshear reported 679 new cases of COVID-19 for 38,298 total cases statewide on Friday. Kentucky also reported eight new virus-related deaths for 804 total COVID-19 deaths. As of Friday, more than 9,021 people have recovered from the virus.
Kentucky's positivity rate rose slightly to 5.68%, and the state has now administered more than 730,362 coronavirus tests. Beshear said case numbers are plateauing and exponential case growth has stopped, but rates are not declining.
NKY Health reports that 3,329 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 85 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 850 active cases, and 2,394 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Friday.
Beshear reported 1,163 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily case count Kentucky has seen so far. Earlier this week, the governor reported that a computer glitch had delayed new case reports from reaching the state to be counted.
Gov. urges schools delay in-person start
On Monday, Beshear recommended delaying the start of in-person classes in Kentucky until Sept. 28. Beshear called opening schools while cases continue to rise “something that would defy logic, something that wouldn’t be safe to do.”
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained that Kentucky's "disease burden" has reached "its all-time high," triggering this recommendation on schools at the advice of White House health officials.
“I am hopeful -- as we have done along this journey -- we will learn lessons from these other places that have done this earlier than us. We will be able to help refine our guidance and our recommendations in the Commonwealth and will be able to give good guidance to the students, the teachers, the parents and try to do this as safely as we possibly can," he said.
The decision to open K-12 classrooms or keep students at home still rests with local school districts. In Northern Kentucky, Kenton County Schools, Covington Independent Public Schools and Fort Thomas Independent Schools have altered their plans and moved instruction online during the first six weeks of school
This week, the Diocese of Covington joined Lexington and Louisville in their decision to start in-person classes before September.
“I disagree with their decision. I don’t believe it’s safe. We just had 1,100 cases,” Beshear said, adding that Kentucky hasn’t had a chance to see results of the mistakes other states’ schools have had as they reopen "too early."
Aside from rising virus cases and positivity rate, Beshear said his recommendation aims to prevent interruptions that other states' school systems have seen, like the shutdowns required when coronavirus breaks out in those schools.
“I am for getting our kids safely back into in-person classes, even during this pandemic. It’s just getting them back at the height of the pandemic I think would be irresponsible," he said.
Free testing in NKY this week
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics now offers free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger. The site, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike, will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing will be available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing.
To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: