Primary election sees light turnout; vote-buying complaints made in 18 counties

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMay 20, 2014 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes predicted early this week that voter turnout for Tuesday's primary election would be less than 30 percent.

She was right: Statewide voter turnout was about 27 percent among a record number of registered voters at 3,105,349.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins called today's election "a little party, where we'll be lucky if a third of the guests show up."

He was right: Fayette County's turnout was a paltry 22.7 percent.

"I don't really have a good explanation other than many of the races appeared to be decided without help from the voters," Blevins said, referring to what some called foregone conclusions in the mayoral race and the U.S. Senate primaries. "And I guess the down-ticket races weren't interesting enough to bring out more voters."

In Jefferson County, turnout was slightly less than 20 percent, said Nore Ghibaudy, spokesman for the County Clerk's office.

Eastern Kentucky showed some turnout outliers. Floyd, Knott and Breathitt Counties, for example, had percentages above 50 percent.

By 7 p.m., Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's office reported 205 calls to the Election Fraud Hotline, including almost 50 involving vote buying or selling, or bribery.

The vote-buying complaints were from 18 counties, mostly in Eastern Kentucky.

There were multiple allegations involving vote-buying from Bell, Breathitt, Clay and Pike counties.

Breathitt County had the most calls to the hotline, 16 in all, including eight involving vote buying or selling, two calls about disruptions at polls, and one complaint about electioneering within 300 feet of the polls.

The Attorney General investigates and prosecutes election-law violations and conducts random post-election audits in six counties 30 days after the election.

On primary election day in 2012, a presidential election year, the hotline received 31 calls from 14 counties. For the 2012 general election, there were 183 calls from 57 counties.

Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General patrolled precincts and polling places across the commonwealth during the primary.

The state Board of Elections also reported numerous calls Tuesday morning from voters and county clerks with procedural questions.

Grimes' office had this statement: "The state board has worked with county election officials to promptly and efficiently resolve any issues and preserve Kentuckians' right to vote."

Early in the day, voting around the commonwealth was slow but steady.

"We had nothing really happen today," Blevins said. "It was a long, boring day, which is just how we like it."

The past three election cycles in which county offices were on the ballot (2010, 2006 and 2002) drew about a third of the voters.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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