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Kentucky Lawsuit Seeks To Keep Universal Mail-In Voting In November

Jacob Ryan

A group of voters and advocacy groups are suing to get Kentucky to continue offering mail-in voting to all eligible voters during the November General Election.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams expanded mail-in voting ahead of Kentucky’s June 23rd primary election in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But no arrangements have been made to continue allowing all Kentucky voters to cast ballots by mail on November 3.

The lawsuit was filed by four Kentucky voters, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center and the D.C.-based Fair Elections Center in Franklin Circuit Court.

Cecilia Aguileria, an attorney for the Fair Elections Center, said in a statement that the state constitution requires officials to keep expanded mail-in voting in November.

“Section 6 of the state constitution provides: ‘All elections shall be free and equal,” Aguilera said. “Without the same rules for no-excuse absentee voting, the November general election cannot be ‘free and equal’ because voters will be forced to choose between their health and their family’s health, and their fundamental right to vote.”

The group is also asking for the court to delay implementation of Kentucky’s new voter ID law until Beshear’s state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic expires.

Along with mail-in voting, Beshear and Adams expanded early voting to try to reduce crowds at polling places on primary election day. Local elections officials reduced the number of in-person polling places across the state, with most counties only having one polling location.

The small number of polling locations prompted worries of large crowds and lines in Kentucky on primary election day, but the process went smoothly, for the most part.

Beshear has signaled that he wants to continue universal mail-in voting during the November election, but Adams is still considering it.

Crystal Staley, Beshear’s communications director, said in a statement that Beshear supports continuing to expand mail-in voting and early voting.

“With the system working well in the primary, Gov. Beshear believes both options should be part of our practice moving forward and enshrined in Kentucky law,” Staley wrote.

Any changes to Kentucky’s election process during the state of emergency would have to be approved by both Beshear and Adams. Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed a measure earlier this year requiring Adams to sign off on any of Beshear’s executive orders related to elections.

In a statement, Adams called the lawsuit “another in a series of lawsuits from out-of-state left-wing interest groups who want to rewrite Kentucky’s election code to favor their preferred candidates.”

“Our legislature gave emergency powers over elections to the Secretary of State and the Governor, not to the judiciary, and the decision what the November election will look like will be mine and Governor Beshear’s,” Adams wrote.

According to the lawsuit, the four voters suing to expand mail-in voting all have health conditions that put them at risk of severe illness or even death from coronavirus.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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