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What Kentucky's mail-in election means for November

Primary elections: Officials in Kentucky brace for long lines as dozens of polling stations close
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 11:54:19-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Election workers counted primary votes into Wednesday night as crates of mail-in ballots continued to arrive at Campbell County Board of Election headquarters. County clerk Jim Luersen said he doesn’t expect to know the final results of Tuesday’s election until June 3.

“Normally, we have the election, we have the results posted within an hour and a half, two hours after the final vote,” he said. “We do our paperwork the next day and we breathe a sigh of relief. But we can’t do that this election.”

Instead, he and the rest of the state will wait up to seven days to learn which Democrat — ex-Marine Amy McGrath or state Rep. Charles Booker — faces Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell in November.

Former Commonwealth Secretary of State Trey Grayson said the normal expectation of quick results is unrealistic in an election that had to be postponed and restructured due to COVID-19.

Kentucky’s board of elections allowed any registered voter to request a mail-in ballot, leading to over 880,000 being mailed out across the state. About half that number had been returned by Monday evening, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. More will be on their way, and workers will continue counting until a Saturday cut-off date.

“Those of us who want to know the results — i.e., everybody — we have to respect the fact that this is a different situation,” Grayson said. “It just takes longer to count votes.”

University of Cincinnati political science professor Richard Harknett said he expects the unusual primary to foreshadow an even more unusual presidential election. People who vote in November might not know for days whether President Donald Trump will keep his position for another four years or cede it to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Like Grayson, Harknett said they’ll have to cope with waiting.

“That will be the messaging that has to go out to the electorate, that this is just going to be the situation,” he said.

Jim Luersen isn’t sure what it all means for him and Campbell County. He hired 14 people to help count primary votes; he might need twice that number for November, when council and school district races complicate the picture even more.

“But at this point, we don’t know what the election in November is going to look like, because that’s all decided down in Frankfort,” he said.

For now, his group will tally and wait.