FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s secretary of state has offered a preliminary election plan that calls for expanded early voting but excludes no-excuse absentee voting by mail for all voters amid the coronavirus.
His proposal would allow Kentuckians to cast mail-in ballots if they decide their age or health condition makes it too risky to vote in-person, Secretary of State Michael Adams said. That option also would apply to people living with them or caring for them, he said.
“We should have expanded absentee voting beyond what we currently have in the law,” Adams said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But I don’t think that we can do universal absentee (voting) because I think the system will crash.”
Adams’ proposals on how to conduct the November general election amid the global pandemic were submitted to Gov. Andy Beshear this week. The Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state are expected to begin negotiations soon.
Beshear has said he supports no-excuse absentee voting for November.
The state’s June primary included widespread absentee voting by mail — an agreement reached by Beshear and Adams. Kentucky’s handling of the primary — resulting in the highest turnout for a Bluegrass State primary since 2008 — won praise. About three-quarters of all ballots were mailed in. Kentucky shifted its primary from May to June due to the public health crisis.
As in the primary, Adams is again suggesting the state use a combination of mail-in absentee balloting, early in-person voting and in-person Election Day voting.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on any one leg of the three-legged stool of absentee, early voting and Election Day,” he said.
But Adams said Tuesday that universal no-excuse absentee voting would overload the election system in November when participation will be dramatically higher.
He estimated that his proposal could still result in mail-in voting accounting for up to 40% of turnout in November. Typically, only a fraction of Kentuckians vote by mail-in absentee ballots.
Adams said his preliminary plan for November also calls for at least two weeks of in-person early voting, which he sees as another way to limit crowds voting on Election Day.
Last month, Beshear laid out his preferred formula for the November election. The governor said the state should allow widespread absentee voting and early in-person voting, plus offer multiple places for in-person voting to maximize participation amid the coronavirus.
In vowing to push for no-excuse absentee voting, Beshear said: “I think everybody out there likes it, too. It lets you get it done. It lets you get it done from the safety of your own home. I believe that Democrats and Republicans voted heavily absentee and the more people who vote, the better.“
Adams said he’s hopeful that an agreement can be reached in a week or so.