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Kentucky Secretary of State says primary turnout bolstered by early voting, despite calls by some for repeal

Office of Kentucky Secretary of State

Only about 13% of Kentucky voters cast ballots in this month’s primary, in line with projections. Without a marquee race at the top of the ticket, low turnout was expected by Secretary of State Michael Adams.

“What draws people is a statewide race, and we had no Senate race in cycle this year," explained Adams. The presidential nominations have been long-decided, so I’m actually pleased to have 13% show up.”

Voter turnout in Kentucky’s largest cities was essentially no higher than the statewide rate. A little over 13% of Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green voters cast ballots.

Nearly 14.5% of registered voters turned out in 2023 primary, which featured the governor’s race and other constitutional offices.

Adams says he expects primary turnout to grow over time as more races are decided in the primary instead of the general election.

“We have more and more seats that aren’t competitive," Adams told WKU Public Radio. "They’re very Democratic, urban seats or they’re very Republican, rural. There’s no Democrat in November in the red areas and no Republican in November in the blue areas, so that makes the primary the general election.”

The number of early voters has increased every year since being introduced in 2020. Adams says turnout would likely have been lower without the three-day early voting period.

One of the more interesting observations from this year’s primary was that a majority of the early ballots were cast by Republicans amid threats in the GOP-dominated legislature to repeal early voting. Republicans make up 46% of Kentucky’s electorate but accounted for 53% of early voters.

As the dust settles on the primary, attention is shifting to the November election.

Secretary Adams says he’s expecting the presidential contest to increase state turnout to around 60% this fall. He added his office will work to increase polling locations and awareness about early voting over the next several months.

The last day to register for the general election is Oct. 7.

Copyright 2024 WKU Public Radio

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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