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Louisville Election Officials Tally Votes In Record-Breaking Primary Election

Short waits times at the Jefferson County polling site at Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville on June 22, 2020.
Short waits times at the Jefferson County polling site at Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville on June 22, 2020.

Ahead of Kentucky’s Primary Elections, Jefferson County officials worked in 12-hour-shifts around the clock to mail out more absentee ballots than at any point in county history, according to county election officials.

In total, more than a third of all registered Jefferson County voters requested a mail-in ballot to participate in the 2020 primary election. Then on Tuesday, another approximately 14,800 people turned up to vote at the county’s only polling location.

“This has been the largest primary that we’ve had in the history of Jefferson County,” said Nore Ghibaudy, Jefferson County Board of Elections spokesperson.

Now it’s up the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office to tally those votes and send them up to the State Board of Elections. To do that, they’ve pulled an additional 200 personnel from the clerk’s office to help manage the influx mail-in ballots, Ghibaudy said.

Ordinarily, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office employs about three dozen people in its election center, but this election was different from the outset.

Under Kentucky state law, there were a limited number of reasons that would allow voters to mail-in an absentee ballot or vote early, including military service, working out of the country, having a surgery etc.  But in this election, officials added COVID-19 to the list, ensuring, in theory, that anyone who wanted a mail-in ballot could receive one.

“We had to basically to take the motor vehicle branches down to nobody,” Ghibaudy said.

Jefferson County mailed out about 218,000 ballots ahead of the primary. Now the elections officials have until June 27 to collect the remaining ballots, scan and tabulate them.

Officials are back on 12-hour-shifts working in bi-partisan teams of two. With each mail-in vote, the pair compare the signature on the outer envelope against that voter’s registration card signature. Then they pull out the ballot, turn them face down and feed it through a scanner that tabulates the vote.

Anyone can watch the process unfold on a livestream of the returned ballot processing center on the Jefferson County Election Center website.

“First of all, they can watch it on camera. We scan it in with a bi-partisan team. I don’t know, I think it would make it very difficult to walk away from the table with a stack of ballots,” Ghibaudy said.

As for November’s presidential election, Ghibaudy said his office hopes that more people can vote in-person at their typical polling locations.

“Well, I’ll tell you this. we don’t want to do it again,” he said, referring to this year's primary voting process. “We are hoping that we don’t have that happen for the fall election.”

The State Board of Elections plans to announce election results June 30.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.