Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams told lawmakers Sept. 16 that the state is budgeting close to $10 million to pay for the Nov. 3 election.
Adams, the state’s top election official, told members of the General Assembly’s interim committee on Appropriations and Revenue his office has a $9.74 million budget for the coming election, which includes $4 million postage for absentee ballots, $2.2 million for additional county election workers, $2 million for new equipment and $1 million for public service announcements.
The plan also calls for the state Board of Elections to establish a call center to answer election questions for $40,000. Adams’ office anticipates needing $500,000 for random items, such as one-use pens at polling places.
The state has $4.5 million in federal funds through the CARES Act and Help America Vote act, so the state’s election cost is $5.24 million.
“I know that’s a lot of money, especially right now, but I believe that’s a bargain for a successful presidential election held during a pandemic,” Adams said.
Each county is making its own plan for how to conduct the election, following guidelines agreed upon by Gov. Andy Beshear and Adams. The individual county plans will have to be approved by Adams’ and Beshear’s offices. Forty-eight county plans have already been approved, Adams said.
Absentee voting will not be universal this time and is for people who might be vulnerable to the coronarvirus due to age or health reasons. Already, 321,000 absentee ballots have been requested, Adams said.
To replace the need for universal absentee voting, counties will have three weeks of early voting, and are encouraged to have more polling places.
“As for Nov. 3, we will have many more voting locations than we had on June 23, “ which was primary election day, Adams said. Several counties, including McLean County, plan to have all of their voting precincts open on election day, Adams said.
The plan calls for each county to have at least one voting center, where people from any precinct can vote.
“I think it’s a good idea permanently” to have voting centers in every election, Adams said. A voting center would be a benefit to people who have trouble making it to their precinct in time because of work, he said.
“We don’t want to disqualify anyone due to inconvenience,” Adams said.
Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican, said he was concerned Louisville could have as few as four polling places on election day, “which would be unconscionable.” The Courier-Journal reported Wednesday Jefferson County’s plan calls for eight voting centers.
Adams said larger counties including Jefferson, Fayette and Daviess hadn’t submitted their plans for approval yet.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be possible for them to open every precinct,” Adam said.
He added that having 26 voting places, “would be the bare minimum of what would be responsible.”
County election workers will be allowed to start processing ballots earlier than they were during the primary election, Adams said.
He also expects the majority of the ballots to be counted by election night. Absentee ballots postmarked by election day will be accepted and counted.
“On election night, we won’t have all of the ballots counted, but I think we’ll have 75 to 80% of the votes counted,” Adams said. “... It will be enough for us to project some outcomes.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse