MURRAY – The Calloway County Board of Elections expects to finalize its list of voting centers for the May 2022 primary election next month, and there will likely be five places people can vote throughout the county.

Because of a law passed this year by the Kentucky General Assembly, counties no longer are required to have a polling place at each individual precinct, and are instead allowed to place several “voting centers” at locations county boards of election believe will work best. With that in mind, the County Clerk’s Office and the board are trying to strategically place voting centers in locations that will be convenient for the majority of voters regardless of where they live in the county.

The preliminary list of voting centers includes the CFSB Center, Kirksey Baptist Church, the Hazel Baptist Church Activity Center, New Concord Church of Christ and Elm Grove Baptist Church. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 9, and members plan to finalize the number of voting centers at that time so County Clerk Antonia Faulkner can send the plan to the Kentucky Board of Elections for approval.

“The best thing about using schools and churches is that they have a large open area, enough parking spots and (they meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act),” Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the U.S. Census Bureau has not yet submitted any 2020 Census information to her office that would necessitate changes to how the election is run, so the board should be able to finalize its plans for the May 17 primary at the next meeting.

“If it’s good with you, I’d like to make a plan to send in to the state based on what we have now,” Faulkner told the board. “One thing I think you all know is that the county and city schools started and added days (to the calendar), so they’ll be in school in May. So we cannot use their facilities in May. We talked to both (school districts), and (Deputy Clerk Lynn Paschall) talked to Murray State, and there’s no problem there.”

Faulkner said she believes the local board of elections should be able to make changes for the Nov. 8, 2022, general election to use schools for polling places since schools will be closed that day. Bill Cowan, the Republican representative on the board, said he thought it would be a good idea to add some schools for voting centers next November, but to also keep all the voting centers from the May primary to avoid confusion.

“I would suggest for future planning, since the people are going to get used to these places in the primary, when in comes to the general election, we might just add in two or three of the schools because of their locations, but keep these places too,” Cowan said.

Faulkner said the CFSB Center had the most foot traffic of any of the voting centers last year, so she expected that to be the case again next year. Although she was very happy overall by how the process went in 2020, she said one thing she regretted was not having a voting center in Hazel. Since Hazel has city elections in 2022, she said it is especially important to have a voting center there, and the Hazel Baptist Church has worked very well in the past. She said the locations under discussion in Kirksey, New Concord and Elm Grove similarly had plenty of parking available and are easy to get in and out.

Faulkner said that assuming the state board of elections approves Calloway’s plan, any registered voter in the county will be able to cast their ballot at any voting center they wish. Melisa Stark, the Democratic representative on the board, said she thought that was a very positive change.

“I think that’s the way it needs to always be,” she said, adding that she was fine with adding some voting centers for the general election, but didn’t want to add many more. “I’m so proud we’ve lessened the (polling) places, and I don’t want to add many more to have to find more workers.”

“I think what we can do is we will get a feel for how many people are voting in the primary, and that will give us a feel for what we can expect in the general,” Cowan said.

Faulkner said that once the state approves the local board’s plan, she plans to heavily publicize the locations of the voting centers in the lead-up to the primary. The filing deadline is 4 p.m. Jan. 7, for anyone who plans to run as a Democrat or Republican in the primary. Candidates filing to run for local office must go to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website, sos.ky.gov, to fill out their paperwork, and then they can bring it to the county clerk’s office on the second floor of the courthouse to file and pay the filing fee. Any voter planning to change their party registration must do so before Dec. 31, which can be done at govote.ky.com