Only 10 percent turn out to cast their votes

lowest since '99 governor's primary

jpatton1@herald-leader.comjhewlett@herald-leader.comMay 18, 2011 

About 10 percent of Kentucky's registered voters cast their ballots in Tuesday's primary election, a turnout that at least one official called "abysmal."

Late Tuesday, with 99.8 percent of precincts reporting, the statewide voter turnout was 10.3 percent. Out of 2,917,837 registered voters, just over 300,000 had voted.

"Voter participation was low, turnout was late and we weren't surprised by that in this election," said Lindsay Zoeller, deputy assistant secretary of state.

In Fayette County, just 22,349 of 185,003 registered voters turned out — about 12 percent.

That's the lowest turnout in a gubernatorial primary election since 1999, when only 8.6 percent of voters went to the polls. In 2003, 21 percent voted; in 2007, 22 percent voted.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. attributed the low turnout to several factors: nothing to draw independent voters, no contested Democratic governor's nominee, apathy and bad weather.

Although the clerk's office had braced for even lower numbers on Tuesday, Blevins said, "Let's not be proud of 12 percent. That's abysmal."

Kitty Ware, elections coordinator for the clerk's office, said earlier in the day that with a lack of pre-primary publicity, many people didn't know there was an election.

Lines at the polls were pretty much non-existent into the afternoon, and most precincts rarely had more than one voter at a time..

Problems at the polls apparently were rare.

By 3 p.m., there were two calls to the state's election fraud hot line, according to the attorney general's office — one from Fayette County and another from Henry County. Both were general election complaints and did not involve allegations of vote-buying, according to Allison Martin, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

During the May 2010 primary, the hotline received 116 calls from 43 counties while polls were open.

The number is open year-round, and this year, three calls came in before the primary. Two were procedural or legal questions; the third involved absentee ballots.

Perhaps the biggest excitement of the day: a light fixture started smoking at a precinct in Graves County. A fire truck arrived, and voting proceeded uninterrupted, Zoeller said.

Two precincts in Livingston County were moved over the weekend because of the potential for flooding, but all roads to polls were clear on Tuesday, Zoeller said.

Staff writer Cheryl Truman contributed to this article.

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