Kentucky’s voter turnout higher than predicted, but still under 20 percent

Why Americans don’t vote (and what to do about it)

If Didn’t Vote had been a candidate in the 2016 election, it would have won by a landslide.
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If Didn’t Vote had been a candidate in the 2016 election, it would have won by a landslide.

Voter turnout was higher than predicted in Tuesday’s primary election, when 19.26 percent of registered voters cast their ballots for candidates to face off in the November general election.

Interest in contested primaries for governor helped fuel turnout, though fewer than one in five registered voters bothered to show up at the polls to pick Republican incumbent Matt Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear to face each other on Nov. 5.

Last week, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes estimated that only 12.5 percent of the 3.4 million Kentuckians registered to vote would actually go to the polls. Instead, 658,979 people voted.

In the 2018 primary, Kentucky’s turnout was about 23 percent. A bill that would have moved Kentucky’s gubernatorial election to even-numbered years was defeated in the General Assembly this spring.

Voting complaints were also lighter than in presidential election years. By 4 p.m., there were 30 calls to the attorney general’s election hotline. Most were procedural questions, with one call each about electioneering in Breathitt County and Scott County, according to Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office. Someone also called from Floyd County about a possible disruption at the polls.

Before election day, the Attorney General’s Election Fraud Hotline (800-328-8683) received nine calls, mostly legal questions. There was one call related to general election fraud in Boyd County.

The biggest problem locally appeared to be the abrupt crash of the Fayette County Clerk’s website on Tuesday afternoon. It didn’t affect voting, but voters were unable to look up their polling sites on the website. As of 6 p.m., the problem had not yet been resolved. Deputy Clerk Meredith Watson said the issue appeared to be related to hardware.

In Fayette County, voting was light in the morning as County Clerk Don Blevins and his staff counted absentee ballots., but overall turnout in Lexington was about 24 percent.

There were about twice as many absentee ballots this year as in 2015, Watson said, about 500 compared with about 250 in the 2015 primary.

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