Voting in Kentucky – 2020 Update

On November 3, 2020, the polls in Kentucky will open for a number of local and federal elections. While polling stations will run from 6 AM to 6 PM, there are still a number of Kentuckians whose work schedules could keep them from getting a chance to cast their ballots. To prevent this problem, Kentucky has laws in place providing rights and protections to workers who perform their civic duty on Election Day.

Additionally, because of the ongoing challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentuckians have several options to choose from when casting their ballots in addition to going to the polls on November 3rd for in-person voting.

NEW VOTING OPTIONS FOR 2020

In an effort to make voting safer and more accessible during the COVID-19 outbreak, Kentucky is offering voters expanded absentee ballot access and early voting, in addition to the option of voting in-person on November 3, 2020. Below is some information from the Kentucky State Board of Elections that will hopefully help make this process a little easier for you: 

  • Anyone concerned with contracting or spreading COVID-19 can request a mail-in absentee ballot through the state’s online request portal: https://vrsws.sos.ky.gov/abrweb/
     
  • Voters have until 11:59 PM ET, October 9, 2020 to request a mail-in absentee ballot, but don’t wait, request your ballot now if you are voting by mail.
  • All mail-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3, 2020 and received by 6:00PM, local time on November 6, 2020 to be counted.  Don’t wait until November 3rd to send in your ballot!

IN-PERSON OR ABSENTEE — THE LAW STILL REQUIRES YOUR EMPLOYER TO GIVE YOU TIME OFF WORK TO VOTE

In Kentucky, Section 148 of the state Constitution mandates that Kentuckians receive a reasonable time off work to vote.  According to KRS § 118.035(2), this leave of absence must not be less than four hours and must be scheduled between the opening and closing of the polls. An employer must also provide the same amount of leave to a person who, prior to Election Day, visits the clerk’s office to request an application for, or execute, an absentee ballot. This leave must be provided during business hours. In either scenario, employers can require employees planning to vote to apply for leave prior to Election day, and can also set the hours during which the employee can take leave.

KRS § 118.035(2) states: 

As provided in Section 148 of the Constitution of Kentucky, any person entitled to a vote at any election in this state shall, if he has made application for leave prior to the day he appears before the county clerk to request an application for or to execute an absentee ballot, be entitled to absent himself from any services or employment in which he is then engaged or employed for a reasonable time, but not less than four (4) hours on the day he appears before the clerk to request an application for or to execute an absentee ballot, during normal business hours of the office of the clerk or to cast his ballot on the day of the election between the time of opening and closing the polls. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee may absent himself. 

ELECTION OFFICERS

An employee selected to be an election officer is entitled to a leave of absence from employment for an entire day for training and to serve as an officer during election day.

THE PENALTY PROVISION

There is no specific requirement that an employer pay its employee for the time taken off to vote. However, the law does prohibit an employer from penalizing an employee for taking time off to vote. While the issue of what constitutes a penalty is not entirely settled, it is likely safe to assume that any adverse action against an employee for taking leave to vote (firing, demoting, decreasing wages) will be covered.

However, the statute does make clear that an employee who requests leave to vote, but in turn does not cast a ballot, may be penalized or disciplined. This provision only applies if the employee was able to vote, but simply chose not to.

An employer who violates any of the above rights and privileges could be subject to civil liability. Remember these provisions on Election Day, and if you feel your employer has taken any adverse action against you for voting, or for voting for a certain candidate, you should seek counsel immediately in order to learn about your options.

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