In an unprecedented year, it’s only natural to have an unprecedented election. It’s the first in our lifetimes to occur during a global pandemic, and one in which a record number of Kentuckians will vote by mail. While we’re used to watching the results roll in on live TV on election night, it may take days — possibly even weeks — to officially call the winner. 

And that’s okay. Accessibility and accuracy are far more important in a free and fair election than immediate results. 

This year, about 625,000 voters in Kentucky requested a mail-in ballot. As of this writing, about 425,000 have been returned. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, access to safe voting options was not a guarantee. The pandemic and an ACLU lawsuit prompted a bi-partisan agreement that expanded mail-in voting to keep Kentuckians safe. This election was the first opportunity for many voters to cast a mail-in ballot. Even before the pandemic, voting by mail was becoming more common nationwide, earning support from leaders with a wide range of political leanings. This year, voting by mail is more popular– and more necessary– than ever, because it provides a safe, secure and convenient way for many voters to cast a ballot. 

Making voting more accessible was the right thing to do, and these changes should be made permanent. But more mail-in ballots mean it will take more time to know the results of the election because Kentucky does not count ballots until polls close on Election Day. Mail in ballots can also slow down results for mundane reasons such as taking the ballots out of envelopes to verifying the legitimacy of each ballot. This means we may not have a winner on election night. This isn’t a reason to be disappointed; a lag in results is not only expected, it’s a sign that the process is working as it’s supposed to. Each and every vote must be counted. 

The goal of any democratic election is to represent the will of the people. To achieve that goal, we must count every single vote. Some pundits and candidates may try to preemptively declare victory, but voters decide elections, not candidates or pundits. Every Kentucky voter’s voice deserves to be heard. Let’s prepare for an extended election process to make sure that happens. 

If you voted by mail, make sure your vote is counted. Visit to track the status of you ballot. If there’s an issue with your ballot, officials must try to contact you. Be sure to answer phone calls and check your email. Questions or problems? Call or text Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) to get in touch with a local expert.