FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Thursday, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams briefed state lawmakers on the successes and areas in need of improvement that were highlighted in this past midterm election.
"Early voting works," he told lawmakers. "At my request, you acted in bipartisan fashion to enact it, and over a quarter-million voters took advantage of it."
And on Election Day, Adams says more than four times as many people voted. The large turnout was a good thing. However, it caused some long lines in some counties.
"The lesson here is that, in 2023, in order to reduce lines, we need more voting locations, not more voting days," said Adams.
Rep. Jason Nemes, the chairman of the Interim Oversight & Investigations Committee, fired his frustrations over the issue at the directors of Kentucky's Board of Elections.
He played a video showing a long voting line in Oldham County and wanted to know why the Board approved the county's plan with not enough polling locations.
"This is voter suppression. That's what this is," said Nemes.
"We asked the Secretary of State to reject this plan. And he took it to the Board of Elections, and you didn't reject the plan," he added. "That's what happened."
The Board's directors told lawmakers this is something that will be worked on. However, they pointed to a bigger issue that causes some counties to not have more polling locations - a lack of election workers to man the locations.
Jason Denny, president of the Kentucky County Clerk's Association, added that lack of money plays a role in this. He pointed out that some counties don't have the money to pay election workers more.
"There are some counties that I know are paying the minimum of $60 per election officer for not a 12-hour day. It was a 15 or 16-hour day this last time," said Denny.
Adams believes there are two ways Kentucky can fix the issue of not enough voting locations.
"One would be to do what we did in 2020, via emergency powers that [the General Assembly] granted: we gave the counties the flexibility to consolidate voting locations, but they had to get the approval of the Governor and me," Adams said. "I think it is important that someone politically accountable – whether it’s the Governor, me, both of us, or some other statewide constitutional officer – review and approve a local election plan that reduces voting locations."
"The other approach would be to develop a statutory formula to set a floor for how many voting locations a county needs for early voting and election day," he added. "I don’t know offhand what that formula should be. It might need to be different in one county than another, because some counties’ voters use early voting more than other counties’ voters. It’s complicated, but I think it’s doable. I’m neutral over which approach you prefer, but we must do something to prevent long lines in the future."