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Polls open for the Kentucky primary election with low turnout expected

A voter at Brandeis Elementary School fills in a ballot for the Kentucky primary election.
Justin Hicks
A voter at Brandeis Elementary School fills in a ballot for the Kentucky primary election.

Thousands of voters are heading to the polls for the Kentucky primary election Tuesday. But low turnouts are expected in this year's primary, which boasts a contentious Republican gubernatorial race.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 6 p.m. as Kentuckians vote in the primary election, which includes the governor’s office.

A trickle of rain was falling outside the Cyril Allgeier Community Center in the Poplar Level neighborhood when Delores Thomas-Marshall walked out after casting her ballot in the Democratic primary election.

Thomas-Marshall said the only election she’s ever missed was in 2008 when she had serious heart surgery, which was particularly disappointing as she had spent the previous year campaigning for Barack Obama. After casting her ballot in the primary, which Secretary of State Michael Adams predicted will have a turnout between 10% and 15%, Thomas-Marshall said she was “appalled” to hear about the potential low turnout.

“The reason we vote is that we love this country, and we've got to maintain democracy. It starts at the very basic level locally, and we go from there,” Thomas-Marshall said.

Regarding the low turnout, the 78-year-old said she assumed fellow Democrats were confident that current Gov. Andy Beshear would win the nomination and didn’t feel the need to vote.

“They think his nomination will be secure, and he doesn't need people to vote for him today,” Thomas-Marshall said. “But I don't trust any chances.”

Other Democrats voting in the primary expressed similar support for Beshear. Benita Love came out to vote primarily for Beshear, who she trusts having at the helm of the state despite opposition from a Republican-controlled Legislature.

“I’d like to see him continue on with the mission that he has successfully completed and that’s it. Because I didn’t have much to vote for,” Love said.

The only other race on her ballot was for agriculture commissioner, who she admits she didn't know a lot about but hopes her selection “gets the job.”

Dennis Oechsli said he isn’t surprised people aren’t coming out to polls because of the short Democratic ticket and poor weather. Bursts of heavy rain throughout Louisville and a severe thunderstorm warning in large portions of central and southern Kentucky could put a damper on some people’s voting plans. But Oechsli said he hopes people continue to come out and support their candidates.

“There's no other choice but to vote,” Oechsli said. “It's the only way you have to control who's in office, who’s making policy decisions.”

Shirly Long is a registered Republican and is voting in some of primary’s more contentious races. Long said he’s not overly worried about the outcome, but that those who don’t vote can’t complain about it.

“We never have a full turnout, not even on the presidential elections. Some people just don't want to get out,” Long said.

Barbera Murphy cast her ballot at Brandeis Elementary and said she was unimpressed with many of the candidates on the Republican ticket for governor.

“I’ve been looking and I really don’t care for too many of them because there's too much politics in the politics, if you get my meaning,” Murphy said. “They’re nitpicking at too many things.”

Murphy said the top two issues she was concerned about were the candidates’ stances on gender-affirming care and immigration. She is in favor of “listening to the children” about what care they need and creating a clear pathway to citizenship for immigrants. But none of the candidates matched her views, so she had to search for other issues she was less passionate about.

For Jacob Jury, voting is a family affair. He walked up to Seneca High School on the gloomy Tuesday morning with his wife and 20-month-old son in his arms.

Jury is a teacher at DuPont Manual High School, and he likes encouraging his students to vote, too. He said he is driven to vote this year to support Beshear and because of issues like abortion access and gun safety.

“It's a bit stressful to try and teach math when that's an issue that our entire nation can't really seem to come together on,” Jury said. “We're just trying to be responsible voters.”

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.
Justin is LPM's Data Reporter. Email Justin at jhicks@lpm.org.

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