'It's outrageous': Kentucky voters face confusion as state scrambles to prepare for coronavirus
Photo of a long line to vote in Wisconsin by SEIU

On Friday, The Washington Post detailed the potential problems awaiting Kentucky voters in the wake of changes to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic.

"Less than 200 polling places will be open for voters in Kentucky’s primary Tuesday, down from 3,700 in a typical election year," reported Michelle Ye Hee Lee. "Amid a huge influx in requests for mail-in ballots, some voters still had not received theirs days before they must be turned in. And turnout is expected to be higher than in past primaries because of a suddenly competitive fight for the Democratic Senate nomination."

"The scenario has voting-rights advocates and some local elections officials worried that the state is careening toward a messy day marked by long lines and frustrated voters — similar to the scenes that have played out repeatedly this spring as the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the 2020 primaries," continued the report.

After a federal judge rejected an effort to expand polling places, said the report, "Jefferson County — the state’s largest, home to 767,000 residents and the city of Louisville — will have as its sole polling location a convention and expo center where voting booths have been set up about eight feet apart in a cavernous hall. About one in five residents in the county is African American, the largest black population in the state."

“It’s outrageous that officials are seeking to hold in-person elections in a single location,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law president Kristen Clarke to The Post. “It’s as if Kentucky failed to follow the crisis that unfolded in Wisconsin and Georgia, where officials were woefully unprepared for the turnout on Election Day.”

Kentucky has historically had among the strictest voting laws in the country, with almost no early voting and an excuse required for an absentee ballot — although the state has relaxed those rules to accommodate people at risk for COVID-19. The state has a number of key primaries next week, one of the most closely watched of which will be the Democratic Senate primary, where progressive state Rep. Charles Booker has recently surged in polling against Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams has sought to assure voters that mail-in ballots are secure and the risk of fraud is minimal, but he acknowledges that he is "concerned about voter confusion."

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