Kentucky Politics

Kentuckians lined up at polling places across the state on Tuesday, the first day of early-in person voting.

All voters are eligible to cast ballots early in their home counties, though the number of polling locations has been reduced amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Louisville, the parking lot was full at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, one of four early voting locations in Jefferson County. Inside, there were several dozen volunteers and even more voters in a well organized, efficient process as people laughed and joked with friends and acquaintances.

As of 11 a.m. most voting stations were full at another one of Louisville’s polling places, the Kentucky Exposition Center, though there remained no lines and no waits to gain access.

Nore Ghibaudy, spokesperson for the Jefferson County Clerk, says he expects more people to take advantage of early voting than during the primary election.

“I think it’s going to be a steady flow now that people know they can do that, if they have their lunch hours or whatever it may be. But I think that by the time it comes Election Day, I think a lot of people will have voted,” Ghibaudy said.

Early voting is open from Monday through Saturday in every county; voters can find out where their local polling places are on the secretary of state’s website.

Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams expanded access to early voting to all Kentuckians during the coronavirus pandemic as an effort to reduce crowds at limited polling locations on Election Day.

Officials were criticized during the June primary election for only having one polling location in most of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said that turnout has been lopsided at Lexington’s eight early voting locations—most traffic has been at three libraries and a senior center, while other polling places have had minimal traffic.

Blevins says he is worried that people will wait to cast their ballots, creating crowds near Election Day.

“The fact that there’s kind of light usage today, at least at four of the locations, that means people are waiting until later to do it. If we wait until the bitter end, that’s not going to go well,” Blevins said.

Blevins also said that there were fewer requests for mail-in ballots than he had hoped for.

“We’re right at the theoretical capacity of the eight locations, so that means we’re going to have lines at some point,” Blevins said.

Pike County Clerk Rhonda Taylor said that she also expects more people to vote in person than during the primary election, and that turnout was high during the first hours.

“Ours is going great, we’ve got a great turnout. Yeah, I’m standing here looking at it. Yeah we’re moving them real quick,” Taylor said.

Christian County Clerk Mike Kem said that early voting was going smoothly and that fewer people requested mail-in ballots than during the primary election

“We’ve had about 5,000 [mail-in requests]. At the primary we had more than that, so I think people aren’t trusting the mail,” Kem said. “The word that I get is that most everybody’s going to vote early.”

All Kentucky voters were able to cast ballots by mail during the General Election, though the deadline to request a mail-in ballot was Oct 9.

But it looks like fewer people will vote by mail during this time around. There were 658,068 requests for absentee ballots for the General Election. Nearly 1 million people requested mail-in ballots for the primary election and about 70% returned them.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson and Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.