Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams visited Hopkinsville Tuesday afternoon to speak at a Rotary Club of Hopkinsville luncheon at the Memorial Building. Adams spoke on his office’s efforts to create a safe and effective election system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s never been easier to vote in Kentucky than it is this year, as long as people know how to do it,” Adams said.
“The biggest issue I’ve dealt with is voting safely in a pandemic,” he said a short time later.
Adams began explaining the process that he and Gov. Andy Beshear went through during the primary election to ensure the safety of everyone voting.
For the primary, the state gave voters the option to vote while at home and mail in or drop off their ballot or vote in person during a two week period ending on the primary election day.
Despite concerns that Kentucky was going to have voting problems, possible voting fraud and that the state would suppress voters by not having polls open longer on election day and having fewer locations, the state didn’t have any of those issues, according to Adams.
“We had a very successful election. We had a record turnout, no one’s vote got suppressed, everyone had an easier time voting than they ever had before and we had no vote fraud,” he said.
Voting fraud was a major concern for Adams and the state as a whole when the pandemic and discussion regarding mail-in voting began.
Adams shared that to combat that during the primary, his office set up the govoteky.com website, which allowed his office to be able to track ballots, see who was requesting ballots, the amount of ballots and where they were requesting them as well as verify that they were a real person.
“We actually had a primary with no vote fraud cases,” Adams said. “I’m an election lawyer professionally, I can’t remember a Kentucky election without a vote fraud indictment somewhere.”
After the primary, Adams shared with the club, Kentucky is currently ranked number one in the nation for election administration.
“I’m really proud of that, but I still thought that we could improve for the general election more than what we did in the primary,” he said.
Now, he stated, Kentucky has more voting locations than it did during the primary after his office recruited more and younger poll workers to volunteer for the general election.
Adams added that when the pandemic first hit Kentucky, the state had around 15,000 election volunteers, but that number had dropped down to 2,000 as most of the volunteers were senior citizens who were at higher risk from dying from the virus.
He added that now, Kentucky has 5,000 volunteers.
“That’s why you’ve seen a lot bigger presence in in-person voting locations in both the scope of us having three weeks (for voting) plus having just more locations on Nov. 3,” Adams said. “The length of time you can vote is extended too. There’s no Election Day this year. There’s 19 election days.”
Adams said that his goal is to have a third of Kentuckians vote by mail-in, a third by early in-person voting and the last third to vote on Election Day, Nov. 3 and he expects an 70% voter turnout.
Adams added that 70% of Kentucky voters will vote in person early compared to the primary election’s 80% that voted by mail.
Adams also shared that feedback from Kentuckians following the primary election showed that voters wanted to know the election results on Election Day.
“For two reasons we’re going to know the results on Election Day,” he said. “One is most of our voters are going to vote in person. It’s much quicker, faster and easier to process those votes. We just push a button on the election machine and there’s your total.
“The other reason is we’re not waiting until Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. to begin processing absentee ballots. We’re not going to count them in this sense, we’re going to run them through the machines on an as received basis, but we’re not going to hit the button that tells us the totals (until the polls close on election day).”
As the state is expecting a large amount of mail-in ballots this general election, concerns over voter fraud have become a popular issue for some voters.
Adams explained the process his office will go through to ensure that there is no voting fraud or similar issues with mail-in voting.
Using the govoteky.com website, Adams said, his office verifies the person’s identity by checking their driver’s license and compares that information as well as the voter’s signature.
He added that the state requires the voters to sign the ballot envelope and then verifies the signature against the driver’s license or voter registration card of the voter.
If the signature doesn’t check out, they will contact the voter and give the voter a chance to remedy the issue.
“That’s good for two reasons. One is it helps (voters) from being disenfranchised because they signed a different way than they signed 25 years ago when they got their license and registered,” Adams said. “The other reason is if someone doesn’t show up to fix the signature it lets us realize there might be a fraudulent signature and then we investigate.”
Adams also spoke on what he thought he would be doing in his position before the pandemic hit.
He explained that he ran his election campaign on restoring confidence in Kentucky elections and cleaning up the voter rolls.
“During the campaign, I noted that across the state that we had 200,000 people on our voter rolls that had moved away, passed away or have been put away and yet they persisted on our rolls,” Adams said.
Adams continued to share that the names of those who are dead on the voter rolls causes poll workers to take more time to sign voters in when they are waiting in line.
“So, even if you don’t have concerns about the dead voting, you should be concerned about the long lines,” he said, adding that long lines are concerning to him especially in the middle of the pandemic when people are supposed to be social distancing.
Adams added that since he took over the position, his office has removed around 37,000 dead voters.
He also explained that every two weeks, his office receives an updated list of everyone who received a death certificate in the past few days previous to receiving the updated list. This list allows his office to continue to remove voters who have passed away from the voter rolls.