Q&A: Ten election questions with Ky. Secretary of State Michael Adams
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Voters have called or messaged WAVE 3 News asking a number of questions about the upcoming Kentucky Primary set for June 23. So, we sat down with Secretary of State Michael Adams to get answers.
Q. What are the deadlines for voting absentee in the upcoming election?
A. Monday, June 15, this coming Monday at 11:59 PM. That’s the deadline to request your absentee ballot. You can go to GoVoteKY.com or call or email your county clerk, but it’s more efficient to use the website. It’ll save a step and you’ll get your ballot much faster. Go to GoVoteKY.com no later than Monday night, at 11:59 p.m. Let’s get your ballot to you so you can vote.
Q. When does a voter have to send their ballot back in or drop it off?
A. Voters can either mail back their absentee ballot or they can deliver it to the clerks office. It’s Going to be easier for them just to mail it, but, either way, you have to mail it by June 23. That’s Election Day. Or voters can hand-delivered it by June 23. If it’s mailed back to us after that, we can’t count it. In fact, if it’s mailed on that date, not postmarked, and we don’t have it on the 23rd, It won’t count either. So all things being equal, it’s best for voters to go ahead, get those ballots and get them back to us. So, we have them in hand as soon as possible. We can also count them more quickly the faster we get them.
Q. These are unprecedented times. We’ve seen some states have their primaries recently. Some have had issues when it comes to wait time, lines or other things. How are you preparing for some of what we’ve seen in other states to make sure things run smoothly here?
A. Well the first thing that I did differently from what Wisconsin did is I reached an agreement with the governor well in advance of the election to set the rules, and have them be clear and not contested. That gave the voters confidence that the rules were fair. You had a Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state working together in a bipartisan fashion. So, the rules were clear, but they were also establish well in advance. In Wisconsin, you had litigation at the U.S. Supreme Court the day before the election. No one knew what the rules were going to be the next day. The governor and I worked that out two months in advance to make sure there was clarity. So, the rules are very clear. They are agreed-upon. That’s the first big difference in what we’ve done. The second big difference is we made funds available to the counties to hire more workers to get these absentee ballots processed. Here in Jefferson County, they're literally working 24 hours a day to get these absentee ballots processed. To get them out, to get them back and to get them tabulated. So, we do encourage people to vote that way if they can. It’s going to obviate the need to stand in line for five or six hours on election day. That’s not good for anybody.
Q. We've received questions about requiring signatures on ballot envelopes. Where are they supposed to go? Someone called us with concerned, that if they have to sign on the outside of an envelope that is going straight into the mail, is there a security risk in doing that?
A. First off, no one signs their ballot [directly]. We want an election where the ballot is secret. That's in our constitution. It’s required and we’ve respected that. No one signs the ballot. However, you do sign an envelope that you put your ballot into. An inner envelope. You also signed an outer envelope. Here’s why we require that. It's so that we can match the signature that we have on file for the voter on the voters registration card or the voters drivers license. That’s how we make sure we don’t have election fraud. We check the signatures. We’ve actually had that in our law for many decades. Absentee balloting has been in our state constitution since 1945. So, this is not a new thing. Clerks have been doing this for 75 years. They’ve been matching signatures and making sure the votes are legitimate. So, this is not a new process. We’ve had this in place for many, many years. There’s nothing that sensitive about someone signature. It’s on their drivers license. We have a record in state government. It’s not a confidential document. It’s a signature.
Q. Given the number of absentee ballots being sent in, will Kentuckians get results on Election Night or will they have to wait longer for them?
A. The counties run our elections in Kentucky, unlike a lot of other states They’re not run out of Frankfort by me. They're run at the local level. So, the counties have to make their own decisions. The counties decide themselves how many polling locations they have. I’ve disagreed with Jefferson, Fayette, Kenton and other big counties just having one location, but that’s their decision. I respect that. They also have the same decision at the local level about whether they release results election night or not. In some counties, most of the votes are going to be cast in person. My guess is those votes will be reported Election Night because it’s going to be most of the votes. For some counties, most of the votes are going to be absentee. My expectation is that, in Lexington and in Frankfort, most of the votes in those places are going to be by absentee ballot. If those come back late, if people wait until the last minute, it could take a week to count them all. So, my expectation is that some counties, election night, will release results they’ve already tabulated. Other counties are going to wait a week after the election. So, they can count every vote before they make any announcements. I know for a fact that Fayette County is going to wait for a full week. I’m not sure what Jefferson's going to do.
Q. If someone requested an absentee ballot by Monday June 15, and, for some reason, they didn’t get it by election day, can they still vote in person?
A. They absolutely can. No one is going to be disenfranchised. No lawful voter is going to be disenfranchised. If you request your absentee ballot, and it doesn’t arrive by Election Day, you can still go vote in person. Obviously, we’re going to have you vote what's called a provisional ballot. That’s under federal law. You get to cast [a ballot] and we put it into a separate box. Then, we figure out what happened with your ballot. You are entitled to a hearing to explain what happened, and then we count your ballot. So, we do record, of course, if an absentee ballot is received. You can’t vote in person if you voted already, but, if you never got your ballot, you’re still going to get to vote in person.
Q. Do you have any feel for how the U.S.P.S. is handling it's responsibilities, given the unprecedented quantity of absentee ballots requested in Jefferson County?
A. We have seen, in some other parts of the country, the mail service have delays and problems. We have not had that in Kentucky. It’s been very smooth, very efficient. We’ve not seen any reports in Frankfort of lost ballots or loss postcards, or any of that. Here in Kentucky, the system at the postal level seems to be working pretty well.
Q. For those who prefer to communicate with people over the phone, instead of through the internet, how is the Secretary of State helping answer their questions leading into the absentee request deadline and Election Day?
A. We are somewhat responsible to the increase in calls clerks are getting because we took it upon ourselves to send a postcard to tell them their clerks name and phone number. We wanted the information to be available. We’ve actually offered, in Frankfort, to make funds available to expand the number of phone lines and to be able to hire more workers to be able to handle the demand that they’re getting from the voters. So, it’s a clerk by clerk decision, what their office looks like. I can tell you that the hours of pretty much all of them have increased. Here in Jefferson County, they’re literally working 24 hours a day.
Q. If there are lines when polls close on Election Day, how late will in-person sites be able to stay open?
A. We will keep the polls open as long as there is someone in line, who arrive by 6 P.M. local time to vote. We’re not going to throw anyone away. We’re not going to deny anyone the right to vote, who’s entitled to vote. Even if those lines are until one in the morning, we’re going to count every vote.
Q. Is there anything else you wanted to add or emphasize?
A. I just want to encourage all voters in Jefferson County, and all across the state, to vote absentee. Otherwise, we’re going to have people waiting in line like they did in Georgia, Wisconsin or Washington D.C. well into the night. In Washington D.C., they were In line until one in the morning. The reason that happens is because people aren’t voting absentee. If you’re able to vote absentee, please do so? Please be considerate, not just of your own time and your own risks, but also those of other people, including our elderly poll workers.
Kentucky voters can learn more about the absentee ballot request process and secure drop off locations in Jefferson County here.
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