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Western Ky. County Clerks Say Absentee Ballot Requests For General Election Significantly Increased

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  County clerks in western Kentucky say absentee mail-in ballot requests for this November election have increased compared to past general elections, with the deadline approaching for voters to request an absentee ballot. 

Hopkins County Deputy Clerk Jenny Menser said mail-in absentee ballot requests have increased because of the pandemic, with Kentuckians able to request a ballot this election using fear of COVID-19 exposure as the reason. Data from the Kentucky Secretary of State office as of Thursday shows 2,741 absentee requests in Hopkins County so far out of 35,421 registered voters, with nearly triple the number of registered Democrats requesting ballots compared to Republicans. The Associated Press reported in past weeks Democrats have generally outpaced Republicans in absentee ballot requests throughout the state.

 

Menser said she is also hearing anecdotally that more people plan to vote in person this fall instead of through mail, compared to this summer’s delayed primary election.

 

“Sometimes they’re afraid their ballot isn’t going to come back in the mail or come back in the mail in time, or they don’t trust their ballot will get back,” Menser said. “That’s what a lot of people are saying why they want to vote in person.” 

 

President Donald Trump raised doubts about the validity of absentee mail-in voting in recent months, but Menser and other western Kentucky election leaders interviewed by WKMS said the absentee mail-in voting process is safe and secure. Election experts report voting fraud through mail-in ballots is very rare. Kentuckians may check the status of whether or not their mail-in ballot has been sent to their residence, and whether or not the ballot has been received by a county clerk after mailing it back. Menser said many counties are also offering drop boxes for voters to place their absentee ballots. 

 

“Now we have even more security involved with being able to scan them out, track them better than we’ve ever had before,” said Christian County Election Coordinator Melinda Humphries. “I feel confident in it for our county, I feel confident in it for the state of Kentucky.” 

 

Humphries said even if a mail-in ballot has a problem, such as missing a required signature on the ballot, the county clerk’s office will make an effort to contact a voter through information on file including through email, phone, and sending a letter to voters to notify them about the problem. 

 

Humphries said she hopes the state continues expanded eligibility for mail-in voting because voters deserve the choice to vote at home if they don’t want to vote in person, or can’t make it to vote in person because of work or other reasons. Other election leaders also said they hoped for the continuation of voting “super centers” in future elections, or generally a single location or a few places in a county where voters may cast an in-person ballot regardless of where they live, compared to people having to vote in specific assigned precincts. 

 

“I wouldn’t mind condensing down some of my precincts,” said Graves County Clerk Kim Gills. “First of all it’s going to save the county money. Second of all, condensing them down and having more super centers will help timewise for sure.”

 

Gills said with fewer polling precincts, fewer poll workers would be needed for Election Day. That, combined with expanded early voting and absentee mail-in voting, has the potential to save expenses for her county.

 

Secretary of State data as of Thursday shows 14,903 absentee mail-in ballot requests in the Purchase region out of 134,827 registered voters, making up about 11% of regional voters. The deadline to request an absentee mail-in ballot is October 9. 

 

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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