Grimes predicts 20 percent turnout on Tuesday, says GOP presidential caucus will play a negative role

05/11/2016 12:46 PM

FRANKFORT — With a slew of high profile races on the ballot on Tuesday, May 17, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says only one-in-five registered voters are likely to appear at the ballot box.

Making her predictions from her office in the state Capitol, Grimes implored voters to take part in the process and to look at the bevy of high profile races including the Democratic presidential primary, U.S. Senate contests on both sides of the aisle, as well as contested state House and Senate legislative primaries and local elections.

Grimes said the GOP presidential caucus held in March will have a negative effect on the overall turnout.

“The absentee ballot requests that our clerks have received from Republican voters is down quite a bit, and my hope is members of the media will help us educate voters — especially Republican voters that they have quite a lengthy ballot that we hope will show up and vote for on May 17th,” Grimes told members of the press. “I do believe, based on the absentee numbers we’re seeing today, that turnout across the state will be approximately 20 percent.”

As of May 9, there have been 4,821 Republican, 7,533 Democratic, and 2,575 other absentee issued ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Historically, presidential year primaries in Kentucky have low voter turnout. In 2004, just 14 percent of Kentuckians voted in the primary. By 2008, the numbers jumped to 32.2 percent turnout, but fell again in 2012 with a 13.9 percent statewide turnout, according to voter data.

In each of the last three presidential year general elections rebound with turnout at or over 60 percent statewide.

Kentucky’s primary elections are held as closed primaries, meaning voting is limited to registered party members who may cast ballots, non-partisan elections are open to everyone.

In response to a question posed by Pure Politics, Grimes said the state legislature should consider open primaries, where voters of any party affiliation may cast a ballot. But, before lawmakers take that step, Grimes said they should amend statute to allow same-day voter registration.

“What I have heard many Kentuckians across this state voice concern and opposition to is the deadline by which to change their party registration by December 31st,” Grimes said.

Another issue for Grimes is the paper poll rosters, the State Board of Elections and six county clerks are testing a pilot electronic poll books project this election season to determine if elections in Kentucky can move beyond the speed of paper.

“That’s cumbersome, redundant a lot of resources at issue and what our clerks are going to be seeing in six counties is if possibly the commonwealth is going to be ready for electronic poll books so we can eliminate that process.”

One precinct in Floyd, Jefferson, Kenton, Boyle, Madison and McCracken Counties will be using the electronic poll book technology as part of the pilot project which will allow voters to sign in at precinct electronically, and Grimes along with staffers will be monitoring the data real time back at her office in the state Capitol.

Grimes said there are 3.2 million registered voters in the commonwealth, with 1.6 million registered Democrats and 1.2 million registered Republicans, which represents an record high number of registered voters.


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