A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Primary election has few problems, state officials say and vote totals will likely surpass 1million, a record

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Despite long lines for voters in Fayette County, members of the State Board of Elections are saying the unusual primary election has gone smoothly and could see a record turnout when final numbers are submitted on June 30.

After Secretary of State Michael Adams, in his role as Kentucky’s chief election officer, sent a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear recommending the election be postponed from May 26 to June 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor issued an executive order implementing the change.

In a show of bipartisanship, Adams, a Republican, and Beshear, a Democrat, have worked together, along with the SBE members, on ironing out numerous election-related issues that resulted from the change.

Kentucky has had absentee voting available for a long time but, up until now, there had to be an excuse to obtain a ballot, such as age, illness or being out of town on election day. That requirement was eased for this year’s primary.

Adams was among those calling it a successful election.

“I’ve been making calls around the state to polling locations, and things have been going great,” he told the board members. “I think voters are a little relieved that this process has been so easy for them.”

He said lines were short in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties except Fayette.

“Even in Fayette County, the lines are about a third of what they were in some other states that you’ve seen have problems,” he said. “If the lines had only been an hour-and-a-half or two hours in some of these other states, that would have been a pretty good day for them. And I’m pleased only one county has gotten that so far.”

While saying he wouldn’t make a prediction on voter turnout, Adams said, “If you take the voters who voted in-person early, add to those the voters who requested an absentee ballot, those are 29 percent of all registered voters. That’s about 50 percent higher than you typically see in a primary in Kentucky. That does not include anyone who voted in person on Election Day.”

Adams says it could reach 35 percent after all the votes are counted, which under the emergency regulation, won’t be until June 30.

“While all eyes were on Kentucky today, we offered the nation a model for success in conducting an election during a pandemic. I’m proud of Kentuckians for exercising their rights, and proud of the bipartisan coalition who worked with me – the Governor, State Board of Elections, county clerks, and poll workers – to make this election both successful and safe,” Adams said after the polls were closed.

Board of Elections Chair Ben Chandler said, “We are doing something that truly is historic, that’s never been done before. Despite all the propaganda that’s been put out there by certain campaigns and others, particularly national commentators who don’t know what they’re talking about, we are on track to have a tremendously successful and historic election, here in Kentucky.”

Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, reported there were around 110,000 in-person early voters, and 890,000 people requested an absentee ballot be sent to their home for a total of around 1,000,000, not including Election Day voters.

He compared that to past Presidential Primary years. “In 2008, which was one of the largest primary elections the state has had in decades, we had 922,000 individuals cast a ballot. In 2012, we had 415,000 Kentuckians cast a ballot and in 2016, we had 670,000.”

Dearing also said he fully expected 90 percent of the absentee ballots to be returned to county clerks, and 100,000 people to vote on Election Day, along with 110,000 in-person early voters. “That places us well over 1,000,000 votes cast in this election, which makes it incredibly successful.”

The naysayers and misinformation on social media leading up to the primary were wrong, Dearing said. “The mission of the Secretary, the Governor and this board, was to make sure that voters had access to the ballot, that they could cast that ballot safely and securely, and that every individual had had access, if they were an eligible voter in the Commonwealth. And I think this election has shown that can be successful, and it has been so.”

Louisville’s polling place at the State Fairgrounds extended voting by half-an-hour due to traffic congestion getting into the fairgrounds.

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  1. Gayle says:

    I am just curious about if anyone will be reporting how many mail-in ballots are thrown out. How would anyone know if their mail-in ballot was counted? There’s no tear-off receipt. There are no spreadsheets posted online with receipt numbers and votes registered from that receipt. Ditto for machine voting, actually. Why are these not available for people to see if their vote was tabulated properly and for independent groups to analyze and verify the vote counts? I have heard your mail-in ballot can be tossed out because you didn’t sign your name the way you signed it (years ago?) on your voter registration. Maybe you use initials now you didn’t then, or vice versa, or your broke your arm and your handwriting is different, or you got parkinsons or whatever. How are people supposed to be able to verify their vote was counted, and counted correctly? Without such systems in place, our election system is a sham.

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