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Officials: Kentucky 'On Track' For Successful Election, Even With Bluegrass Backups


Despite overflow at Fayette County's lone in-person voting site, Kentucky election leaders say the state saw a relatively smooth — and potentially record-breaking — roll-out of its revamped voting system Tuesday.

Even amid a pandemic, election trackers say the commonwealth is poised to exceed recent primary election turnout expectations by a sizable margin.

"Despite all the propoganda that's been put out there by certain campaigns and others, particularly national commentators who don't know what they're talking about frankly, we are on track to have a tremendously successful and historic election here in Kentucky," Board of Elections chair Ben Chandler said Tuesday afternoon.

With the competitive turn in Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate race and drastically scaled-back in-person voting, national news outlets had warned the state may be headed for Election Day disarray similar to the chaotic scenes the country witnessed in recent Wisconsin and Georgia contests.

"The scenario has voting rights advocates and some local elections officials worried that the state is careening toward a messy day marked by long lines and frustrated voters," the Washington Post reported.

But one professional election watcher in Lexington predicted worries that hundreds of thousands would be crammed into single polling locations in the state's two most populous counties were overblown.

"It's just simply false. The math doesn't work," University of Kentucky elections expert Joshua Douglas told WUKY. "We known turnout is not going to be 100 percent... and over 220,000 voters have already requested a mail-in ballot and more are voting via early voting, which was available for two weeks before the final day of the voting period."

Criticism of Kentucky's handling of the primary ramped up in the days leading up to the election, with former presidential contender Hillary Clinton tweeting that the state is engaged in "voter suppression."

It's an argument a federal judge had rejected the prior week in a lawsuit seeking more in-person voting locations.

By three o'clock Tuesday, it appeared the single Fayette County voting site at Kroger Field would prove to be the biggest kink in Kentucky's revamped primary election. For some voters earlier in the day, wait times exceeded an hour, with some braving the rain to cast their ballot. Officials blame, in part, a lack of check-in stations. More were added as the day went on.

While Secretary of State Michael Adams stopped short of issuing predictions, the early figures for the state, he said, were promising.

"If you take the voters who voted early in person and add to those the voters who requested an absentee ballot, those are together 29 percent of all registered voters. That's extraordinarily high. That's about 50 percent higer than we typically see in a primary in Kentucky," the Republican reported.

Voters and candidates eager for results will have to be patient this year, however, as the combination of in-person, early voting, and mail-in ballots are tallied over the next week.

In a standard primary election, Kentucky's state Board of Elections would collect and report the results on election night at elect.ky.gov — not so in 2020. Part of the commonwealth's experiment in mail-in voting will be a fairly lengthy delay, but officials say not to worry, and that it's part of the plan.

Secretary Adams told the board his office expects to release results by 6 PM on Tuesday, June 30th. And even those won't necessarily be the final numbers.

"The results that we'll provide on June 30th, those will be unofficial results," he noted. "There won't be official results until this board has an opportunity to review everything, to look for any transposition errors and so forth, and then we finally certify those results. That'll be in July."

A number of Kentucky counties, including Fayette and Jefferson, have chosen to hold off on releasing even partial results until the 30th, which is the deadline for all counties to send in their returns to the Secretary of State.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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