Thanks in part to sweeping election reform passed by Congress in the wake of the 2000 Presidential election cycle, the Kentucky State Board of Elections, County Clerks, & other election officials across Kentucky and the nation are working to ensure our citizens have the best access to the elections process. The Help American 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 is on track to meet those mandates.
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. Because a number of previous sites were not accessible, some changes to polling locations had to be made in order to comply with HAVA, 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.
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 2000 accessible parking sign sets, 7400 parking cones, 1100 door knob converters, and 350 temporary ramps. 100 counties utilized the reusable resources offered by the Board.
Voters will also use new voting machines at every polling location. These machines, as required by HAVA, 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 & thus allow the voter to 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 the new voting machine mandates as well as other requirements of HAVA. The General Assembly provided a required 5% state match. Kentucky's Senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell, was a primary author of HAVA.