FRANKFORT — Results from Kentucky’s unprecedented primary election, with widespread mail-in absentee voting amid a global pandemic, are expected to drag out for days after voting ends Tuesday, keeping some candidates and their supporters in suspense.
Requests for absentee ballots ran well ahead of actual turnout for Kentucky’s last two presidential election-year primaries.
On election night and for days later, Kentucky will have a patchwork of election results, based on decisions by local election officials across the state’s 120 counties.
“Some counties have decided that they are going to wait until all the votes are cast and counted before they’re going to release any results,” Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams said. “Other counties have said that they’re going to release results as they have them available.
“So you could have 120 different decisions around the state about what the county clerks are going to do in terms of timing of release of vote totals.”
Officials in the state’s two most populated counties — Jefferson and Fayette — signaled they’ll wait until every vote is counted before announcing any results, Adams said. That means results from the Democratic strongholds of Louisville and Lexington won’t be known election night.
Adams, a Republican tasked with presiding over his first statewide election amid the coronavirus pandemic, said his office will release partial results as his office receives them.
“Whatever information we receive from the counties, we’re going to be transparent and provide that,” he said in an interview this week.
Complete vote counts won’t be known until days after the election. All absentee ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday and received by county clerks’ offices by June 27 — the Saturday after the election — to be counted.
About three-quarters of the statewide vote could be done through mail-in absentee ballots, Adams said in a preliminary estimate. In-person voting at the polls will still occur on Election Day.
The highest concentration of mail-in voting is expected in urban areas, Adams said. He didn’t project how many mail-in ballots will arrive after the election, adding: “We’re encouraging voters to go ahead and return their ballot as soon as possible so we can process them faster.”
County clerks must submit vote totals to the secretary of state’s office by June 30 — a week after the election.
Kentuckians will be choosing nominees for congressional, state legislative, judicial and local offices. Even with partial results, clear winners will be known on election night in some races, Adams said. But other outcomes likely won’t be know until a week later, he said.
Voter participation is expected to be high as Kentuckians take advantage of the mail-in option, the result of a bipartisan agreement this spring between Adams and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
A week before the election, about 27% of registered voters in Kentucky had requested an absentee ballot or already cast their vote, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections. That’s already higher than turnouts for Kentucky’s primaries in the last two presidential-election years. And that’s before some Kentuckians go to the polls Tuesday. In some rural counties, voting in person and by absentee ballots could be evenly split, Adams said.