Kentucky holds primary elections Tuesday amid growing fears over long lines and coronavirus, understaffed polling places and delayed results.
The state could be the latest to have its primary unfold in a chaotic manner, mirroring scenarios witnessed in Georgia and Washington, D.C. In Louisville, the state’s largest city with about 600,000 people, all in-person voters will have to vote at the state fairgrounds, meaning that voters who did not vote by mail risk facing hours-long lines, The Associated Press reported.
The highest-profile race Tuesday is Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary, where the winner will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.
Ex-fighter pilot Amy McGrath has been the frontrunner for much of the race, but state Rep. Charles Booker’s campaign has gained momentum over the past few weeks, according to a Civiqs/Data for Progress poll.
Michael Adams, Kentucky’s Republican secretary of State, said he remained “cautiously optimistic” when asked about the possibility of voters facing long wait times during an interview with 44 News. He brought up that early voting began two weeks ago, and said that high demand for absentee ballots would also help shorten how long voters at the polls would wait.
Despite Adams’s assurances, many expressed doubt that the primary would proceed as smoothly as hoped.
“If Charles Booker barely loses, I think the integrity of that election is in question,” Republican state Rep. Jason Nemes said Monday.
In addition to the risk of long waits at the polls, delayed results are expected by many Kentucky election officials.
Due to the enormous influx of absentee ballots, as voters in Kentucky and across the country have been eager to avoid in-person voting over the coronavirus pandemic, some counties have already said they will not release their complete results of Tuesday’s election until June 30.
Lexington, like Louisville, only has one designated polling place Tuesday, meaning that all those voting in-person will have to go to Kroger Field, the University of Kentucky’s football stadium, according to the AP.
Some have been quick to criticize the closing of many of Kentucky’s polling sites, even likening the move to modern-day voter suppression. Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, has the largest percentage of black voters in the state, according to voting expert Ari Berman.
As calls to reopen some polling places in more densely populated areas continued to grow, even Adams was unable to say for sure how long lines would be.
“There are going to be lines — 30, 45 minutes, maybe an hour maybe longer,” he said Monday, before adding, “we don’t think anyone will be disenfranchised.”