This week, Kentucky showed how officials, with the right planning and coordination, can run a largely successful election with high turnout during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the days before, dozens of prominent national figures with millions of followers on social media charged that Kentucky was committing voter suppression by having far fewer polling places than normal.
Much of the national commentary raised alarms over only one physical in-person vote center in Jefferson County, which has over 600,000 registered voters, and accused the state of voter suppression.
The reality, however, was much more nuanced. Thanks to Kentucky massively expanding access to absentee and early voting, the state saw record turnout and not the hours-long lines across the state that many predicted.
An election scholar called for the state to delay implementating a law that requires voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, saying this “would truly lead to voter suppression.”
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All eyes were on Kentucky as it held in-person voting for its June 23 presidential and congressional primary elections after a weekend of influential figures claiming the state’s leaders committing nefarious voter suppression.
In-person voting wasn’t perfect, and there were some logistical hiccups, But thanks to a number of measures top officials implemented to make voting easier, Kentucky surpassed expectations and saw record turnout.
While there are still absentee ballots left to be counted, Kentucky is on track to smash its previous voter turnout record for a primary election set in the 2008 primary election, where 922,000 voters cast ballots. As of Friday morning, 721,505 absentee ballots had been returned, making up 85% of those sent to voters, in addition to over 271,000 who voted in person, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
Before the election, a number of prominent celebrities and athletes including Ava Duvernay, Ellen Degeneres, and Jennifer Lawrence, athletes like LeBron James, and national political figures including Hillary Clinton, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar took to social media to accuse Kentucky of using the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in racist voter suppression by slashing in-person places from the usual 3,700 per election to just 200.
In particular, national figures and commentators seized on the statistic that on election day there would be just one in-person vote center in Jefferson County, which has over 600,000 registered voters and is home to half the state’s Black citizens.
While that fact caught fire on the Internet and fed accusations of suppression, many of the posts expressing concern didn’t reflect the steps officials took to expand voting options and avoid the disaster scenario many predicted.
“The reality on the ground on Tuesday was pretty good,” University of Kentucky law professor and election scholar Josh Douglas concluded in a Thursday op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Not perfect. Not ideal. But overall, the election was a qualified success.”
Beth Thorpe, a Democratic strategist and communications chairwoman for the Louisville Democratic Party, told Insider in …read more
Source:: Business Insider