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Lawsuit demands more polling locations in five Kentucky counties

Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 12, 2020

(LEX 18) — In a lawsuit filed Monday, a group of voters claims that the integrity of Kentucky's primary election is at stake.

"There will be significant voter suppression if you only have one polling location in our biggest counties: Jefferson County, Fayette County, Kenton, Boone, and Campbell," plaintiff and Republican State Representative Jason Nemes said. "That's what our expert from the University of Kentucky, Dr. Voss says."

Nemes is not up for re-election this year.

He said that he is not arguing for all polling locations to reopen for the primary, but he wants more than one to be open in each county.

Each of the five counties listed in the suit is planning to only have one polling location open on Election Day:

This excludes polling locations available by appointment only.

While Nemes said he understands that the reason for decreasing the number of locations is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he worries that the likelihood of spreading the virus will actually increase if voters have to stand in long lines for hours, as we have seen in other states.

He also said only having one polling location could drive voters away. For example, some may not have the ability or patience to stand in line for hours at a time.

"Gold star to those voters who stand in line for hours upon hours," Nemes said. "I'd like to think I'd be one of those people, but not everybody is. That shouldn't be what's required on Election Day."

He added that there is a serious issue for those who live far from the polling site and do not have access to transportation.

While Secretary of State Michael Adams is listed as a defendant in the case, he said he is in favor of the counties adding more locations.

"I've been openly and publicly and privately advocating for months that they have more polling locations," Adams said. "I don't want another Georgia or Washington D.C. or Wisconsin on our hands."

However, Adams does not have the power to add more locations. County clerks are the officials who can make that decision.

"I have no authority to order counties to have a particular number of locations," Adams said. "I wish I did. If I did, we'd have more locations."

Adams added that he sympathizes with county clerks, who have faced many logistical issues in light of COVID-19.

I'm sympathetic to them," Adams said. "Their poll workers are canceling on them. Their locations are canceling on them. The clerks are not trying to suppress the votes. These are public officials, elected locally. They know their communities. They're trying to be responsive to their own voters. They're doing their best. I'm encouraging them to add more locations if at all possible between now and Election Day."

Gov. Andy Beshear has encouraged mail-in voting for those who are able to vote in that manner.

However, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit all claim that they either distrust mail-in voting or that they simply desire to vote in-person.

LEX 18 called every county clerk listed in the lawsuit to see whether they had plans to add more polling locations.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said that as of now, he will stick with the polling locations currently in place.

"There are multiple logistical issues at play here," Blevins explained. "Under normal circumstances, we would have planned for locations more than two months ago, and now we're 10 days out."

LEX18 is still waiting to hear back from the other four county clerks.

In a hearing, the Court did not order more polling locations to open as the lawsuit asked.

Rep. Jason Nemes responded in a statement: