Jason Nemes, voters file lawsuit against Kentucky election officials over polling places
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — State Rep. Jason Nemes and several voters across Kentucky have filed a class-action lawsuit demanding there be more than one in-person voting location in several of the commonwealth's most populous counties for the June 23 primary elections.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky, Nemes, a Louisville Republican, and voters from Jefferson, Fayette, Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties allege that "significant voter suppression will occur" as a result of each county having a singular polling location.
Defendants named in the lawsuit are the aforementioned county clerks and members of their counties' board of elections, members of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, Secretary of State Michael Adams and Gov. Andy Beshear.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of close to 500 Kentuckians, Adams and Beshear pushed back the election date from May to June and are allowing all registered voters to relatively high for a primary election.
The lawsuit also pointed to Wisconsin's election that less in-person voting locations can cause a public health risk: At least 52 cases of COVID-19 in the state were tied to the April 7 primary elections.
The lawsuit alleges that limited in-person polling locations could especially put the health of black Americans, who have disproportionately been impacted by the coronaviurs, as well as older voters and voters with disabilities.
The plaintiffs are asking that a judge declares the use of single polling locations in counties that exceed 35,000 registered voters unconstitutional and to "enter permanent and preliminary injunctive relief to prohibit the use of a single polling location" in those counties.
This is not the first time Nemes has advocated for more polling locations. On May 21, he sent a bipartisan letter to state election officials with state Rep. Attica Scott, a Louisville Democrat, to deny Jefferson County's plan for one polling place.
In response to the lawsuit, Nore Ghibaudy, a spokesman for the Jefferson County board of elections and clerk's office, said "it's two weeks before an election, and we're doing everything that we can do."
"We have not had a huge notice to have a ballot election, and that's what this is supposed to be, with an alternative in case somebody changed their mind and decided to vote, or at the last minute decided that they wanted to go vote," Ghibaudy said.
"I probably would have suggested to anybody that was looking at assisting the people under their district would be better suited by helping their constituents get a ballot and to do it safely," he added.
Meanwhile, though Adams, Kentucky's chief election official, said he does not approve of Jefferson County having a singular polling site, he thinks those types of decisions are "best left to the local officials."
"I don't think it's appropriate for a federal judge to decide where we have polling locations," Adams told The Courier Journal.
Adams added that "there's just not enough time" to create additional polling locations in these counties, saying: "What would be even worse than what we have now it would be voter confusion."
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