Adams calls for more voting locations to reduce wait times
Secretary of State Michael Adams presented his ideas this week for improving Kentucky’s elections during a meeting of the House committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs. Topping the list: adding more places where people can cast a ballot.
“In order to reduce lines, we need more voting locations, not more voting days,” Adams told lawmakers.
Rep. Jason Nemes agrees. He told the committee that in Oldham County, the line to vote on Election Day 2022 wrapped around South Oldham Middle School. Nemes said the line was so long, he saw some would-be voters leave.
“This gentleman said, ‘I came here to vote, just at 5:30 or so, but I can't stand in that line’ and left. And you could see the cars driving up and go right back out the line. What can we do to make sure that never happens again?” Nemes asked.
Oldham used five voting centers on Election Day. A voting center allows registered voters to cast their ballot at any location within their county, rather than going to a specific location for a particular precinct. Fifty-six counties utilized voting centers in 2022. Precinct-only locations were used in 44 counties, while 16 counties had a combination of both precincts and voting centers. Four counties – Carroll, Nicholas, Owsley and Robertson – each had a single voting location.
State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Sellers testified that there were other factors that contributed to the long lines some voters experienced at both voting centers and precincts on Election Day. Many candidates were on the ballot along with two proposed constitutional amendments.
“Quite possibly, it was the longest ballot that the Commonwealth has ever experienced,” Sellers said. “So, on top of the ballot being historically long, many voters were casting their new paper ballot on new election equipment for the very first time.”
Secretary Adams said he still likes the idea of voting centers because they give voters choices on where they want to go. Voting centers are also an attractive option because of the difficulty many county clerks face in finding poll workers. But Adams said when his office expressed concerns about some counties consolidating locations too much, those concerns were not addressed by the State Board of Elections, which approves county election plans.
Adams suggested that lawmakers set a statutory formula to help counties determine how many voting locations to open. He said another option would be to require approval by the Secretary of State, Governor, or some other statewide constitutional officer before a county reduces voting locations.
“My view is there's no one right way to do it,” Adams said. “You can say we're gonna have a [location minimum], it’s going to be set by statute, based on your voter population, make it a formula. You can have some sort of backstop where there's got to be an additional layer of approval before they consolidate at that level. And I'm neutral on what you choose, but I think we have to do something about it.”
County clerks were not asked to speak at the committee meeting, but several were in attendance, including board members of the Kentucky County Clerks Association (KCCA).
“County clerks will continue to foster conversations with our legislators and county elected officials about the election process and any proposed adjustments,” said Tabatha Clemons, Grant County Clerk and KCCA’s 1st Vice President. “KCCA wants to ensure that county boards of election maintain their oversight over our local election process. This ensures that our local voices are still part of the conversation.”
Other recommendations Adams addressed during the committee meeting included closing a loophole that allows electioneering at the polls during early voting and improving the recount process.