Several thousand ballots mailed on Election Day were processed with the wrong postmark date, but the issue was quickly resolved, according to a letter postal officials sent to some county clerks in Kentucky.
Postal workers were still processing ballots at a Louisville facility on Election Day when the clock switched over to midnight, automatically changing the timestamp from the 23rd to the 24th. It affected 19,000 ballots, officials said, but postal workers immediately caught the issue.
“The ballots were immediately kept together and isolated and held in our delivery office,” said the letter, from Leeann Theriault, the Kentuckiana district manager for the U.S. Postal Service. “Additionally, this group of ballots has been kept separate from other mail pieces and therefore has not been and could not have been intermingled with ballots received after June 23.”
The post office then notified the Secretary of State and State Board of Elections so they could let clerks know there was an issue. In an email sent to clerks Wednesday, Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, asked clerks to isolate any ballots that have a June 24 postmark date and take them to their postmaster for evaluation.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said he has received “a handful” of those ballots, but they were easily identifiable because they were hand-stamped with the correct June 23 date.
“We know which ones they are,” said Don Blevins, the Fayette County Clerk. “They’re now valid ballots, so we threw them in the mix. Problem solved.”
An agreement between Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams allowed for expanded absentee voting in Tuesday’s primary as a way to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Adams Thursday commended the post office for acting quickly.
“I feel very confident that it has been successfully resolved,” Adams said. “The issue was resolved by postal service and we gave direction to the clerks so that the ballots will be treated as posted on election day despite the mistaken post mark.”
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, clerks sent out 868,090 ballots in the mail and as of Wednesday had received around 600,000 of them back. The 19,000 ballots that were received after midnight would make up 1.72 percent of the estimated 1.1 million votes expected in Tuesday’s primary.
Jared Butler, Breckinridge County clerk, said he received a letter from the post office about the problem. He said the post office hand delivered 10 to 12 ballots Wednesday and they were counted.
The post office was able to track the ones that should have been postmarked on the 23rd, so any his office gets at this point marked after that date will be rejected.
Butler, a Republican, said the incident raises a concern on whether the post office didn’t catch some ballots that were incorrectly marked late, meaning they wouldn’t be counted, or conversely whether some got through that shouldn’t have.
Just a few ballots could affect the outcome in races, he said.
“It does raise a concern,” he said.