Secretary of State
Voters to See Changes at the Polls
(Frankfort, KY) – When Kentuckians head to the polls next week, they are likely to see a number of changes at the polls, with many voting in a new location from their previous visits to the voting booth. Thanks in part to the sweeping election reform passed by Congress in the wake of the 2000 Presidential election cycle, the State Board of Elections, county clerks, and other election officials across Kentucky and the nation are working to ensure that citizens have the best access to the elections process in our country’s history. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002 by Congress, establishes a number of mandates for election officials to meet in time for the 2006 election cycle. Kentucky election officials are on track to meet those mandates.
“Kentuckians should be extraordinarily proud of their election officials around the Commonwealth,” commented Secretary of State Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s Chief Election Official and chairman of the State Board of Elections. “While some states struggle with mandates, our history of advanced election administration and dedicated election officials has positioned our state as a leader in these national reform efforts.”
The biggest changes at the polls are directed to help voters with disabilities vote unassisted for the first time in their lives. These changes include making all polling locations accessible and purchasing machines which are adaptable to meet the needs of a voter with a disability.
Sharon Fields, Executive Director of the Kentucky Disabilities Coalition testified earlier this year before the Kentucky House Elections, Constitutional Amendments & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee about the upgrades at the polls. During her testimony she noted, “It is one of the most important rights to be able to vote independently, and these changes will make it possible to do just that.”
HAVA requires all polling location sites to be accessible to voters with disabilities and County Clerks and County Board of Elections have been aggressively working to ensure that Kentucky meets these standards. Because a number of previous sites were not accessible, some changes to polling locations had to be made in order to comply with the law, and in many cases, the polling location had to be moved entirely. The State Board of Election’s preliminary figures indicate nearly 25% of all polling locations have moved entirely to new locations.
“While we certainly do not want to inconvenience voters, it is important that we comply with the law and make sure that every polling location is accessible for all voters,” stated Grayson. “It is important for Kentuckians to check their polling location before heading to the polls in order to reduce any complications on election day.”
The State Board of Elections has purchased a number of items in order to help counties make polling locations accessible and to prevent other polling locations from moving. The Board spent $300,000 on over 2,000 accessible parking sign sets, 7,400 parking cones, 1,100 door knob converters, and 350 temporary ramps. 110 counties utilized the resources offered by the Board. Counties will be able to reuse the resources for many elections in the future.
Voters will also see new voting machines in every polling location. These machines, as required by HAVA, will allow a voter with disabilities to vote unassisted. For example, voters who are blind will use an audio ballot that will “read” the ballot to the voter and thus allow the voter to actually cast the ballot without the aid of another person. Voters will still have the option of having someone sign an affidavit in order to help them, if they so choose.
Kentucky received $37 million federal dollars to implement these new voting machine mandates as well as other requirements of HAVA. The General Assembly provided a required 5 percent state match. Kentucky’s Senior United States Senator, Mitch McConnell, was a primary author of HAVA.
In most instances, counties will still use the machines that voters have used in previous elections, but in some counties, including the state’s second largest county—Fayette, all machines will be new.
"Even though the implementation of HAVA created a major change in voting machines for the voters, Fayette County's voters are responding favorably to them, especially our senior citizens," commented Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins. "Many are saying that the new machines are easier to use than the one's replaced."
Voters can check whether they are eligible to vote in the primary elections, and confirm their polling location by visiting the Voter Information Center at www.sos.ky.gov/vic. The site will also provide voters with driving directions from their registered address to the address of the polling location, which will be useful to those voters who might have a new polling location.
“The Voter Information Center is a tremendous resource for all citizens, and I encourage all voters to utilize this resource so that they may be fully prepared for election day,” noted Secretary Grayson.
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