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Voting In Kentucky Primary Goes Smoothly Despite Concerns


After Election Day meltdowns in multiple states earlier this month, voting in today's primaries is mostly going smoothly. Election-watchers were most concerned about Kentucky, where officials had consolidated in-person voting to just one polling place per county. For more, we're joined by Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton. Hi there.


MCCAMMON: So, Ryland, what's the scene been like at these giant polling places today?

BARTON: Yeah, so despite all the worries about chaos in Kentucky today, things have been going pretty smoothly. People were especially worried about Jefferson County, which has Louisville, the state's largest city and largest African American population. Polling place there was at the state fairgrounds, which is used to handling really large crowds. And really, everybody was able to get in pretty quickly. The line, you know, driving in was pretty short even. And then once you got in, it was - there were 350 different polling stations for people to go through. And they were wiped down, sanitized after each go-around, and people were not waiting very long at all.

Lexington, the city's second - or the state's second largest city, did have some - up to a two-hour line at one point. Supposedly the problem was not enough sign-in stations for voters coming in. They expanded the number of sign-in stations about halfway through the day. That cut down the line a little bit. So things have been hovering around an hour line at that point. So overall, things have been going a lot more smoothly than warned. And, of course, we have to mention that, you know, there's also hundreds of other - you know, over 150 other polling stations around the state in rural Kentucky. And really, there've been - all the reports have been going pretty smoothly there, too.

MCCAMMON: The state has massively expanded mail-in voting. How has that process gone?

BARTON: It's gone pretty well, though not without its hiccups. There have been some reports from people who requested ballots but never received them, though officials say that wasn't very widespread. That's something we're going to be continuing to watch over the coming days. Those people who requested ballots but never received them were allowed to vote in person if they essentially canceled or forfeited their request for a mail-in ballot.

Overall, about 25% of all registered voters in Kentucky requested a ballot, you know, showing, you know, about a 25% voter turnout if all those ballots were turned in. As of yesterday, half of those requested ballots had been turned in. Those have to be postmarked by today. And election officials will be counting them over the coming days. There are certainly a lot of studying that will be going on over the coming days and months just to, you know, kind of see how it all went and see how many people and what types of people they were effectively able to reach and participated.

MCCAMMON: And, Ryland, there is at least one race that's getting national attention there in Kentucky - the Democratic U.S. Senate primary to take on Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. How have these changes to voting affected that race?

BARTON: Yeah. It's going to be interesting to see how it affected it. So, you know, the big story in Kentucky has been the late surge of State Representative Charles Booker, who's really kind of risen to prominence during the protests over racism and police violence - you know, really especially sparked off in Louisville, but, of course, across the state in the country. You know, but really those - you know, he was really making a surge towards the end of May and the beginning of June when people were already starting to send their ballots in. So the question is, you know, how many of those early ballots ended up going to Amy McGrath, the presumed frontrunner in the race at that time and, you know, how much he may have missed out by his surge coming in so late.

MCCAMMON: And quickly, we've been reporting that this shift to mail-in voting will slow down results in many states. What are officials in Kentucky expecting?

BARTON: Yeah, it's probably not going to come in for about a week. Both Jefferson County and Fayette County, the two largest counties, they - the clerks there say they're not going to be turning it in - they're turning in results until June 30. So we'll have a little bit of waiting.

MCCAMMON: That's Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio. Thank you.

BARTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.