Special Elections Delayed as Board of Elections Seeks Work on New Absentee Portal

This article first appeared in the Jessamine Journal.

The date for a special election to fill the 22nd District Senate seat left vacant in early July by the death of Sen. Tom Buford won’t be set for a while, according to officials from the Governor’s Office and the Kentucky State Board of Elections. 

Taylor Brown, general counsel for the State Board of Elections, said that, following the 2021 legislative session, the state needed to enter into a new contract for the online absentee ballot request portal that serves military and overseas voters. The existing contract expired in 2020.

Brown said the Board expects a contract to be signed “any day now” with a vendor who will handle Kentucky’s electronic system for military and overseas voting. Once that contract is signed, the new vendor will need at least 30 days to build out a new portal. 

Kentucky and federal statutes require that members of the military have at least 45 days to cast their ballots, making it difficult to set an election date before the vendor build-out is complete, Brown said. 

“If that portal is not open 45 days before the election date, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Brown said. “But if we slow down a little bit here, it avoids us getting gummed up in court down the road.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown is critical of the delay.

“The Board of Elections should have been better prepared for the possibility of special elections,” Thayer said. “They happen with regularity for a variety of reasons. Last month, two members of the General Assembly tragically passed away and the citizens of those two districts deserve to be represented in state government as soon as possible. I urge the board to do whatever it takes and for Governor (Andy) Beshear to call these elections right away.”