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Election leader encourage absentee voting; tell voters to follow ballot directions closely

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jun 11, 2020

Many people will vote absentee for the first time in the upcoming primary election.

Election officials are encouraging all registered voters to request an absentee ballot instead of voting in-person. However, they want voters to fill their ballots out correctly.

"I need for everyone to follow those instructions very carefully because there are a few things that you can miss that will automatically disqualify your ballot," said Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr.

Blevins said one of the more common mistakes his team has seen is voters forgetting to sign their ballot.

"Every election we have a not insignificant percentage of folks who forget to sign the outer envelope," said Blevins. "That's a fairly common mistake."

Blevins said he spotted several ballots without a signature this week alone.

"I was helping sort them, and I would say in the time I was doing it, I did two or three [bins] - maybe 1,500 votes - and I had ten, maybe 20 ballots that were not signed on the outside," said Blevins.

Blevins said the law prevents those ballots from being opened and counted.

"They're set aside, and we keep them for 22 months. That's the retention period," said Blevins. "But we don't even open them. It's very strict in the statute that you can't do that."

The best thing voters can do to ensure their ballot is correct is to follow the instructions provided with the ballot.

"You place your ballot in the [security envelope] once you fill out your ballot. Make sure to lick the seal. Seal it," said Blevins. "You're going to sign [the security envelope], and you're going to put it in the outer envelope."

The inner security envelope has a detachable flap. Voters must leave the flap attached as they seal the inner envelope.

Then, voters can put the security envelope into the outer envelope, seal it, and sign it.

"Make sure to sign on the outer envelope," said Blevins. "Those are the key steps."

Some voters may not be able to or want to vote absentee. Every county in Kentucky will have at least one in-person voting location available. However, leaders want most people to use the absentee option. They say that's the best way to protect people during the pandemic.

Josh Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky who specializes in election law, voting rights, and constitutional law, encourages all voters to vote absentee.

"People should not be skeptical of voting by mail. It's been done for decades. Some states do virtually all of their elections by mail," said Douglas. "These are including so-called red and so-called blue states."

Some leaders are making accusations about voter fraud when it comes to absentee ballots. However, Douglas said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

"There's nothing more inherently secure about in-person voting as compared to absentee balloting if someone really wants to try to throw a couple of votes one way or the other," said Douglas. "But we don't see that in any widespread form whatsoever."

Douglas believes the safeguards Kentucky has put into place will make sure everything is done correctly.

The first safeguard makes sure only registered voters can get a ballot.

"You can't request a mail-in ballot unless you're registered," said Douglas. "So when you log into the system, govoteky.com, and click 'request your absentee ballot,' you have to put in your personal information that will then pull up your voter file. And if you're not registered, it's not going to pull up a voter file, so you can't even request it."

Another safeguard ensures the ballot can be tracked.

"Part of that includes a barcode that the state officials can track the delivery of every single ballot," said Douglas. "So that they know that it's been received, or at least been delivered."

The signatures on the ballots will also be checked with the voter's signature on file. If there is a mismatch, the voter will be contacted.

"It's not a big deal," said Douglas. "Just go through the steps they are asking you to take, quickly, so you make sure your ballot is counted. But it's not something that's scary. It's something that will happen to some people."

Douglas also suggests returning your completed ballot as soon as possible.