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Ky. Secretary of State details early primary voting numbers, projects low turnout

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams is projecting a low voter turnout for the state's primary election on Tuesday, May 16.
Tony Webster
Wikimedia Commons
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams is projecting a low voter turnout for the state's primary election on Tuesday, May 16.

Fewer Kentuckians took advantage of early voting for this year’s primary elections, confirming predictions of low voter turnout.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, released some unofficial early turnout numbers on social media Monday.

Adams tweeted overall turnout was down 24% through the close of polls on Saturday between all early voting methods, including mail-in and early in-person voting.

Nearly 73,000 Kentuckians turned out to their polling locations for early voting. Republicans constituted more than 57% of those voters, with Democrats making up 42% and Independent voters 1%. Adams said early voting was down 19% from more than 89,000 in 2022.

The number of mail-in ballots requested also went down from 2022. Adams marked a decline of about 40%, with just 18,000 Kentuckians making an absentee ballot request. The secretary of state attributed this to “both turnout declining overall, and the decline of concern about COVID-19 from a year ago.”

This decrease is in line with projections Adams made last week about total turnout for this year’s primary, which he thinks will be between 10% and 15% of Kentucky’s registered voters. If that projection holds, it could be one of the lowest voter participation rates in the past decade.

In 2015, when Matt Bevin topped a crowded race of Republicans by just 83 votes, only 13% of registered voters cast ballots. In 2019, the total was 19%.

In the past, Adams attributed the low primary turnouts to a lack of federal races on the ballot and Kentucky’s closed primary system, which only allows voters to weigh in on races that correspond with their political party registration.

Primary Election Day in Kentucky is Tuesday. Kentucky voters will choose nominees for governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and treasurer.

Republicans will choose from a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates hoping to face incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in this fall’s general election, as well as a host of down ballot races. Beshear is facing nominal competition in his bid for reelection. The state’s Democrats will also vote on a nominee for agriculture commissioner. All other down ballot Democratic races are uncontested during the primary.

Polling places around the state are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. For a comprehensive list of polling places or to find where you vote, visit the Kentucky State Board of Elections’ website.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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