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For some, suspense will linger past Kentucky election

June 17, 2020 GMT
In this Aug. 3, 2019 photo Kentucky republican candidate for Secretary of State Mike Adams addresses the audience gathered at the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky. 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 next Tuesday, keeping some candidates and their supporters in suspense. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
In this Aug. 3, 2019 photo Kentucky republican candidate for Secretary of State Mike Adams addresses the audience gathered at the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky. 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 next Tuesday, keeping some candidates and their supporters in suspense. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — 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 next Tuesday, keeping some candidates and their supporters in suspense.

With requests for absentee ballots running well ahead of actual turnout for Kentucky’s last two presidential election-year primaries, the increasingly volatile race to determine which Democrat will challenge Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could be among the outcomes in limbo for up to a week.

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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 next 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.”

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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.

“So certainly a marquee race like the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, there’s no way I think anyone can project on election night who’s won that primary with the two most Democratic counties still unreporting until June 30,” Adams said.

Amy McGrath, the frontrunner in the Democratic Senate race, is trying to fend off a late charge from state lawmaker Charles Booker, who has gained a series of endorsements and played up his presence at protests demanding justice for black Americans killed by police. Besides Booker, the contest includes another leading progressive candidate, Mike Broihier. On the GOP side, McConnell is expected to cruise to renomination in his bid for a seventh Senate term.

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.