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Kentucky

entucky has made permanent a variety of the emergency changes adopted in 2020 and can continue to strengthen its election system by making other changes they allowed to expire permanent, with the most important being eliminating the burdensome requirement that voters must have an excuse to vote by mail. As always, we stress that policy is important, but it is just as important that it is implemented well.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Kentucky should continue their enormous progress in expanding mail voting. By passing legislation to make no-excuse absentee voting permanent, Kentucky can give their citizens the opportunity to vote in whichever manner they find safest and most convenient. Kentucky can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by creating a permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. States on average save $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
We highly recommend including provisions to allow for mail ballots to be dropped and off at polling locations, vote centers, and other locations deemed necessary by the clerk as a low-cost way to increase options for voters. More options like drive-through drop offs and curbside solutions are also available.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. Emergency regulations allowed ballots with Election Day postmarks to be accepted 3 days after the election kept disaster away in 2020, as accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half. Kentucky should pass legislation to make those changes permanent.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office is not only a voter-centric reform, but also a safety reform. While Kentucky’s governor signed an executive order to prepay postage for the 2020 elections, the state should make prepaid postage permanent for all future elections.
Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or BallotTrax can be a very cost effective tool to improve Kentucky’s current ballot tracking and increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package. It also adds a layer of data for the elections office who can also track the ballots to make sure they have reached their destination. Furthermore, these tools can be used as another modality to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
We all know that it is important to make sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to, and Kentucky’s existing signature verification procedures already do just that. From an election security standpoint, witness requirements are far less secure than signature verification anyway. We recommend the state maintain its 2020 policy of requiring only a signature, not a witness.
Voters should have sufficient time to correct any issues with their ballot In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected. Kentucky’s current cure deadline of election day leaves many voters behind. We recommend allowing voters to cure any issues for 5 days after the election.

Recent Legislation

As of May 19, 2021

On the final day in 2020’s session, the Kentucky legislature passed H.B. 351 to allow the Governor and Secretary of State to establish election procedures during states of emergency via Executive Orders. Per this law, the Governor made executive orders allowing for anyone to request an absentee ballot using fear of COVID-19 as an excuse and establishing in-person absentee voting (also referred to as early voting). Additionally, the order (EO 2020-296) for the June primary added an online absentee ballot request portal, while the order for the general election (EO 2020-688) added drop boxes. Emergency regulations from the State Board of Elections,, 31 KAR 4:192E, added prepaid postage and more drop boxes to expand access, postmark acceptance and a cure process so all cast votes can be counted, and ballot preprocessing so Kentuckians can learn the results of the election quickly.

In 2021, Kentucky allowed many of these changes to expire without fanfare, including no excuse absentee voting, prepaid postage, and postmark acceptance. While this is a disappointment,

HB547 made a variety of common-sense changes permanent in the sweeping HB547 law. This made early voting, online ballot requests, drop boxes, preprocessing, and the cure process permanent.