Student Voting Guide | Kentucky

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the voting laws for the state of Kentucky.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.


In Kentucky, you must register to vote prior to the fourth Tuesday before Election Day, unless that Tuesday falls on a holiday.[1] Voter registration applications are available online here. Mailed applications must also be postmarked by that date.[2] You can also register in-person at any state driver’s license office.[3]

You can register to vote in the primary and general elections if you will be 18 by the time of the next general election.[4] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote.  If you think you might be affected, you should contact your local election officials or visit the Department of Corrections for more information. 


At School. You can establish voting residency in Kentucky if you have a present intention to remain at your Kentucky school address for the time being, and if you intend to make it your principal home, though you need not intend to make this address your home permanently or indefinitely.[5] Your residence for voter registration purposes is the place where your habitation is, in other words, wherever you sleep and live can be your residence even if it is not a residential address. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.

At Home. Like most states, Kentucky allows you to keep your voting residency (for example, at your parents’ address) even if you attend school outside of the state, so long as you do not intend to stay at your school address permanently or indefinitely.[6] Be aware, however, that voting in another state will be considered an abandonment of your Kentucky residency.[7] If you establish residency in another state and are moving back to Kentucky with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Kentucky.[8]  Also, if you or your parents move to a different address within Kentucky, you should update your address or re-register in order to stay eligible to vote.[9] (Note: If you have moved to a different address within the same county but have not yet updated your address, you should still be able to vote in that county; however, you should still update your address as soon as possible to avoid future complications.[10])

Challenges to Residency. Students have the right to cast a ballot as a resident of Kentucky regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid.

If your eligibility to vote is challenged at the polls by an official poll worker or a partisan challenger on the basis of residency, you will still be allowed to vote by regular ballot if you swear an oath that you are an eligible voter.[11] However, if all four precinct election officers challenge you, you will have to vote by provisional ballot.[12] The provisional ballot will be counted if the county board of elections finds that you are eligible after the election.[13]


You will be asked to show an ID at the polls, unless you are personally known by poll workers.[14] You can show a driver’s license from Kentucky or from another state, your Social Security card, a credit card, or any other ID card issued to you by the county in Kentucky you are voting in, as well as any photo ID with your signature.[15] You may not use your student ID unless it has both your photo and signature.[16] If you cannot show ID, you will have to cast a provisional ballot.[17] The provisional ballot will be counted if the county board of elections finds that you are eligible after the election.[18]

Absentee Voting

Anyone who is absent from their home county or unable to vote in-person may cast an in-person absentee ballot at their county clerk’s office during the 12 days prior to Election Day.[19] If you wish to cast an absentee ballot by mail, you must have a legitimate reason for not being able to vote in person,[20] and must apply for an absentee ballot from your county clerk’s office via e-mail, fax, mail, phone, or in person.[21] Acceptable reasons include attending school outside the county where you are registered, employment that prevents you from being able to vote in person, illness, or temporarily residing out of state.[22] Additionally, the county clerk must receive your absentee ballot application at least 7 days before Election Day.[23] Finally, your completed absentee ballot must be received by the close of polls on Election Day.[24] More information about absentee voting is available here.

Last Updated August 15, 2014

[1] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 116.045(2).

[2] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 116.0452(1)(b).

[3] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 116.045(7)

[4] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 116.055.

[5] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.035(1).

[6] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.035(3). 

[7] See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.035(3).

[8] See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.035(3).

[9] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.025(6).

[10] See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 116.025(4) and § 116.085(2)-(3). 

[11] See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 117.245.

[12] 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 6:020, § 4(3)(e).

[13] 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 6:020, § 4(13).  See also Ky. Admin. Regs. 6:020 §6(2)-(3).

[14] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.227.

[15] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.227; see also 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 4:010.

[16] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.227; see also 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 4:010.

[17] 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 6:020, § 3(1).

[18] 31 Ky. Admin. Regs. 6:020, § 4(13).

[19] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.085(1)(c).

[20] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.085(1)(a).

[21] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.085(1).

[22] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.085(1)(a).

[23] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.085(1)(a).

[24] Ky. Rev. Stat. § 117.086(1).