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Voting light in Jessamine County on Primary Election Day

In what one longtime election official described as the lowest voter turnout for a primary election he had ever seen, many of those who showed up at East Jessamine Middle School to cast their ballots in person Tuesday had one thing in common — they didn’t trust mail-in voting.

“If you can go out to Walmart … you can go and vote,” Charlie Warfield said. He and Nick Tecau were wearing their masks and keeping their distance from other people just as they would at the grocery.

“Nope. I don’t trust it and I ain’t doin’ it. Absolutely not,” Annie Barnett said when asked why she didn’t mail in an absentee ballot.

Thelma Neal said she didn’t think the absentee voting process was “completely honest,” despite the reassurances of both Republican and Democratic election officials.

Nearly 27 percent of Kentucky voters requested an absentee ballot this year when the governor and secretary of state agreed that every registered voter could do so for a medical reason — the novel coronavirus.

In Jessamine County, it was 1 percent higher than that.

Deputy County Clerk Keri Peterson said the office had sent out nearly 12,000 absentee ballots. Jessamine County has a little more than 42,000 registered voters.

“Turnout has been much less than expected,” she said, and one big reason is the number of people who decided to vote by mail or by absentee machine at the clerk’s office. She thinks fear of getting the potentially deadly respiratory disease kept many away from the polls.

“I think that’s a lot of it,” she said.

Jerry Harmon, who has worked elections for many years, said he had never seen a presidential primary election with so few people at the polls.

“In five hours, we’ve had 317,” he said, referencing the number who had voted by 11 a.m. at East Middle, one of four voting places in the county.

The others were Wilmore and Nicholasville elementary schools and Southland Christian Church.

Two voters at East Middle presented a study in contrasts.

Clarence Barnett, a gray-haired man, was voting for the first time ever, at his wife’s urging, to show his support for President Donald Trump.

“I never thought about it,” he answered, when asked why he had waited so long to cast his first ballot.

Mike Kanotz’s attitude was the opposite.

“I have never missed a vote in 60 years,” he said, and he wasn’t about to miss this one. But he wasn’t convinced it would matter in November.

Kanotz said he is a registered Democrat, but, “I don’t see any of the Democrats I voted for today winning” on Nov. 3.

Peterson said Jessamine County won’t know who the primary winners were at the end of the day because mail-in ballots were being received as long as they were postmarked June 23, and they would be counted through June 27.

Although Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have already secured the electoral votes they need for their parties’ nominations, there were some competitive races on the ballot in Jessamine County Tuesday, including for Nicholasville City Commission, the Republican nomination for state representative and the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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