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Record-breaking turnout in Kentucky primary despite coronavirus delays

Kentucky primary election
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 20:09:58-04

Kentucky's primary election turnout broke records before a single polling location opened Tuesday, but despite the high interest, in-person voting at limited polling locations seemed to flow smoothly.

In Campbell County, the previous record for votes cast in a primary election was 13,700. Before polls opened Tuesday morning, Boone County clerk Justin Crigler counted 20,000 mail-in votes alone. Boone County also saw record mailed ballots and two weeks of solid early voter turnout. Kenton County saw a 223% increase in voter participation compared with the 2016 presidential primary election.

The state's May election was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and concern was high that unusual voting circumstances this year would cause confusion.

"We prepped way ahead of time," said Justin Crigler, Boone County clerk. "So we kind of knew what we were going to face, the battle, and we were very prepared and it's gone successfully today."

With polling locations limited to just one or two per county, many voters had to travel a significant distance to vote in-person, when they may have been used to simply walking down their street.

"We drove 20 minutes to come down to get this done today," said Elizabeth Mozea, a voter in Kenton County. "It was super easy. No lines. No waiting. Free parking. So the most inconvenience was just the drive out of the way."

Clerks in all counties reported no problems and very minimal confusion from voters. They credited weeks of advertising and the surge of mailed-in votes they received.

Now, the real challenge begins: Counting them all. Kenton County Clerk Gabriel Summe said her team now has to make sure they can get a review team to go through everything before June 30, when results are due. County clerks should have in-person votes tallied quickly, but the mailed-in ballots will take several days. Ballots postmarked Tuesday will be counted as well, as long as the post office delivers them by Saturday.

Kentucky races to watch

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has held his seat in Congress since 1985, faces seven Republican challengers this primary cycle.

Democratic State Rep. Charles Booker and Amy McGrath, a Navy fighter pilot, are running to challenge McConnell in November.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) faces conservative attorney Todd McMurtry to represent Kentucky's 4th Congressional District this primary. The winner of that race faces either neurologist Alexandra Owensby or Shannon Fabert, who are both vying for the Democratic nomination.

Tune in to WCPO 9 News at 11 and find election results as they come in here.