Preparing for what she expects to be a record-setting voter turnout in the midst of a global pandemic, Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates has added a sixth Election Day polling location – this one at Warren Central High School – and increased the pay for election officers.
Warren Fiscal Court approved last week an increase in pay for poll workers from $140 to $180, but Yates said the move wasn’t necessarily intended to entice more workers.
“We’re actually flooded with applications,” Yates said Tuesday. “We’re getting about 20 or 30 a day, and we have more than 900 applications that we’re trying to pick through.”
Yates said she will need about 350 election officers this year to man the early in-person voting site at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center and Nov. 3 voting at six locations. Most of those are already on board.
“All we need is about 100 more people to finish us out,” Yates said.
Normally, the county’s 88 voting precincts have four to eight poll workers each. This year, with coronavirus protocols in place, Yates said she will need about 50 at each location to do what she said is demanding work.
“They do 21/2 hours of training and then a 14-hour day on Election Day,” she said. “That’s why I did the pay increase.”
Some of those workers will be at SKyPAC, where early in-person voting begins Oct. 13 and continues through Nov. 2.
“We’re hoping that will be our biggest turnout,” Yates said of SkyPAC. “We’ll have voting available on three Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon, and we’ll be open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.”
SKyPAC will also be open as a polling location from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Election Day, along with the Phil Moore Park, Buchanon Park and Ephram White Park gymnasiums, Living Hope Baptist Church and the Warren Central gym.
The county’s registered voters can choose to vote at any of the locations regardless of where they live.
With those voting opportunities plus the mail-in voting that is allowed again for the general election, Yates is expecting a high turnout for a ballot that will include the presidential race and a U.S. Senate race.
“In the last presidential election, we had a 61 percent turnout,” she said. “This one will be higher. I expect 70 to 73 percent.”
Yates and her staff at least have some experience with coronavirus-era voting. Only one polling location, Phil Moore Park, was open for the June 23 primary election.
The clerk’s staff handled 3,400 voters that day, and overall turnout was at 29 percent. Yates said 24,236 votes were cast in the U.S. presidential primaries and 23,900 cast in the U.S. Senate primaries.
“The primary election was an unprecedented challenge,” Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said Tuesday in a text message. “Having only one voting site had many people upset prior to Election Day, but the level of organization and preparation before Election Day ended up with most people surprisingly happy with how smoothly it went.
“With six locations for the upcoming general election, early voting at SKyPAC and the mail-in votes, I expect this election to go well too.”
Yates noted that the state’s online portal for requesting an absentee ballot is open at the govoteky.com website. That website said the deadline to request a ballot will be Oct. 9.
The county clerk’s office will mail ballots to those requesting them through the online portal. In order to be counted, those absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received at the county clerk’s office by Nov. 6.
“Warren County has had more than 8,500 absentee ballot requests so far,” Yates said. “We don’t have the ballots yet, but we hope to start getting those out next week.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, who worked with Gov. Andy Beshear to put together voting rules for the primary election that were heavy on absentee voting, said he is seeing a move away from absentee or mail-in voting this time.
“Absentee balloting is on track to be a much lower part of the voting in the general election,” Adams said Wednesday.
Adams cited a poll that showed that 56 percent of likely voters plan to vote in person, either on Election Day or through early voting.
With pandemic restrictions lifted somewhat since the primary election, Adams said nine Kentucky counties have opened all their voting precincts for the general election.
“Every county has shown progress, and I believe a majority of Kentuckians plan to vote in person,” said Adams, a Republican who was elected last year. “I am pleased that absentee voting is still open.
“I think we need to keep the portal (for requesting an absentee ballot). I want to make that permanent. Now that voters have been exposed to it, I think they will want to utilize it.”
Yates said voters not comfortable with mailing their absentee ballot can use a drop box at the courthouse.
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