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Ky. Primary Election Live Blog: McConnell Wins GOP Nomination In Bid For 7th Term

A box of "I Voted Today" wristbands at the Kentucky Exposition Center on June 22, 2020.
A box of "I Voted Today" wristbands at the Kentucky Exposition Center on June 22, 2020.

8:11 p.m.: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has easily won his party's nomination in Kentucky in his bid for a seventh term. McConnell has positioned himself as President Donald Trump's most crucial congressional ally and worked closely with Trump on cutting taxes and putting conservatives on the federal bench. He faced only token opposition from a group of Republican challengers in the Bluegrass State's primary Tuesday.

In an unprecedented move, the state allowed widespread absentee mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. It might be days before McConnell knows who his Democratic opponent will be in the fall. —Associated Press

6:30 p.m.: The doors of the Kentucky Expo Center are again closed. Officials briefly reopened them shortly after 6 p.m. to allow more than 100 people waiting outside to enter to cast a ballot.

6:22 p.m.: The doors at the Kentucky Expo Center have reopened until 6:30, while U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker says a judge is reviewing his request to keep the sole Jefferson County polling place open until 9pm. Reporter Jacob Ryan took this video shortly after the doors closed at 6 p.m.

6:00 p.m.: Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker has filed an injunction in Jefferson County Circuit Court, seeking to keep polls open in Louisville until 9pm. A spokesman for the campaign said Booker was filing the motion because there is currently a long line of cars waiting to get into the Kentucky Expo Center, the county's only in-person election day polling place. Despite that injunction, the doors to the Expo Center closed at 6:00.

In a tweet, Booker urged voters to stay in line.

5:22 p.m.: The cheering is frequent and loud as people pour into the Kentucky Expo Center to cast their votes on Tuesday. Each time a first-time voter checks in, poll workers erupt in gleeful applause. Many of those on the receiving end of that recognition are young Black people, like 18-year-old Howard Fleming, Jr. He says that it’s important for his generation to translate their passion during recent protests into votes.

"I didn't get into much of this stuff until I got motivated by seeing people do rallies, protests and riots and stuff like that," Fleming said. "It helped us get more into it. Like after seeing stuff like this, I feel like all the younger people want to know more about our history."

Officials with the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office say the gesture has become a celebration of civic engagement. Workers want to make the coming-of-age moment a special one for young people who are making their voices heard for the first time. Many of those young people have also reportedly expressed interest in becoming election officers themselves this November.

5:12 p.m.: The Kentucky Expo Center is big, which makes it good for handling a large number of voters practicing social distancing. But the size makes it a challenge for people with accessibility issues. That's why volunteer Jane Gylenquist was there today, spraying down a wheelchair with disinfectant. Here's more.

4:29 p.m.: TARC is providing free primary Election Day buses to and from the county’s only polling place at the Exposition Center so that citizens can vote.

“We want to step up and play an important role as a community partner by providing free TARC service from our headquarters at 10th and Broadway to the Fair & Exposition Center,” said Laura Douglas, the acting co-executive director of TARC. “It seemed to us that it was an important thing to do, to assist the community, to make sure everyone that is interested in voting had a way to get there and had a way to get back.”

Outside the station, cones and tape are set up to guide riders to the correct free bus. The buses which run every 30 minutes to the Exposition Center were not filled to capacity; at most 10 to 15 people as noon approached.

For Matthew George, the free bus was a necessity that allowed him to vote.

“I am coming from Old Louisville, had no ride, and woke up to Facebook with a message telling me that Lyfts were doing free rides and TARCs were doing free rides,” said George. “This has been the easiest voting experience I’ve ever had in 17 years.” Here's more.

3:35 p.m.: During the day of Kentucky’s election primary, more than a dozen tents of protesters still sit in Jefferson Square Park. But it was quiet.

In the park, Chaunda Lee was full of energy and feeling positive about the outcome of today’s race.

“I am very hopeful about Election Day," she said. "This has been a long time coming and this is the day that’s going to bring change for so many things.”

Lee had already voted.

“Today’s election I want to see Charles Booker leading the race. I want to see him come out on top," Lee said. "Because I think he is what Kentucky and America needs for the change of what we’re going through today. So we don’t have to go through this tomorrow.”

In today’s primary, voters will decide whether Democratic state Representative Charles Booker, Amy McGrath, Mike Broihier or one of several other Democratic candidates faces Republican incumbent Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

12:20 p.m.: Lines at Fayette County’s only polling place are long and it’s taking up to two hours to vote,the Herald-Leader reported Tuesday.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. told the newspaper that turnout was higher than expected, and that his office was adding more check-in stations “so the line of voters could move faster.”

The line is largely outside, and it’s raining.

11:46 a.m.: As of 9 a.m. this morning, the Attorney General's election hotline had received nearly 170 calls related to voting, most of which were procedural questions. Most of the calls to the Election Fraud Hotline (1-800-328-VOTE) came before the polls were opened. Not all were specific to counties; of those that were, 51 came from Jefferson County alone, and most were categorized as procedural questions. Since the polls opened, calls have included complaints of electioneering in Fayette County, a complaint about an election official in Hardin County and more questions about procedure in Jefferson County.

11:00 a.m.: Beth St. John drove down from New York after hearing about #AllEyesOnKentucky. She’s passing out snacks and hand sanitizer to voters.

10:41 a.m.: Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams was at the Expo Center this morning, though he told reporters he wasn't there to vote in person because he had already dropped off an absentee ballot.

He said so far, he’s seen no signs that the single polling place is deterring voters.

“By making it so easy, we’ve had turnout that’s through the roof," Adams said. "We’re already on track for at least 50 percent higher turnout than we normally have in a comparable cycle, a presidential primary year. So I think we should be judged by that. What’s the turnout? The turnout is through the roof.”

Adams said his office received a lot of angry calls yesterday as national figures speculated the limited in-person day-of options would suppress votes.

“I’m not bragging, I’m very relieved it’s going so well," he said. "But there’s a narrative that if you're a southern state you’re a racist backwater. I’m proud we’re showing we’re progressive here in the South and we’re helping people vote.”

Adams has also pushed for stricter laws requiring photo IDs to vote which opponents say will result in lower turnout, especially among Black and low income voters. TheKentucky legislature passed a law to that effect earlier this year but it won’t go into effect until the November General Election.

9:50 a.m.: Reporters Stephanie Wolf and Graham Ambrose are at the Expo Center, where they say there are still no lines to cast a ballot.

One of the voters Wolf spoke with was Shona Sondergeld who showed up to vote in person after not receiving her absentee ballot. She said the process was quick to resolve, and she was allowed to vote.

One of the concerns around in-person voting at a site as large as the Expo Center is accessibility issues. Wolf spoke with election official Gracie Taylor, who said she organized dozens of wheelchairs to have on hand in case voters need assistance getting through the venue.

8:30 a.m.: In-person voter traffic is steady at the Kentucky Expo Center, but as of 8:20, there were no lines to vote.

Kentucky has attracted a lot of attention over the past few days, as national figures have suddenly become interested in the commonwealth's election. Celebrities and politicians like LeBron James and Hillary Clinton have raised concerns about voter suppression, because Kentucky's largest counties only have one polling place for hundreds of thousands of voters.

It's too early in the day to see what kind of crowds will show up at the Expo Center and whether there will be any kind of a wait to cast a ballot, but we do know that the state is on track to have really high voter turnout. As Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton reported yesterday:
According to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, nearly 890,000 Kentuckians requested a mail-in absentee ballot — that’s about 25% of the almost 3.5 million registered voters in the state. That’s already higher than the 20.6% voter turnout Kentucky had in the last primary election when both a U.S. Senate race and the presidency were on the ballot. On top of that that, by the end of the weekend a total of 88,507 voters had cast ballots early, in-person. Many counties, including Jefferson, the state’s largest, also had early voting on Monday.
There was also some concern that some people had requested absentee ballots but hadn't received them. If that's the case for you, the State Board of Elections passed a regulation yesterday allowing those people to cast a ballot in person.

6:00 a.m.: It's primary election day in Jefferson County (as well as across Kentucky). This year, there were several ways to vote before today, including by mail or in-person. If you requested an absentee ballot, you have until the end of the day today to drop it in the mail or bring it to either the Kentucky Expo Center (937 Phillips Lane) or the Jefferson County Clerk's Election Center (inside the Edison Building at 701 W. Ormsby Ave).

If you don't already have a mail in ballot, there's only one option remaining: in-person voting at the Kentucky Expo Center. Polls close at 6 p.m., and anyone who is in line at that point is eligible to vote. Here's more information about voting, as well as who you can expect to see on your ballot.

If you need a ride to the polls, TARC will provide free shuttles from Union Station (1000 W. Broadway) to the Expo Center on primary day. Shuttles leave every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; for more information click here.

The national voter advocacy group Black Voters Matter is also providing free rides to the polls. Here's how to request a ride.

The Louisville Urban League is promoting free Lyft rides to the Expo Center with the code KYVOTES.

And if you experience anything today during voting that you believe is a violation of election law or a voting irregularity, you can report it to the Kentucky Attorney General's Office by calling 1-800-328-VOTE.