MURRAY —If the 2020 Kentucky primary election in Calloway County proved anything, it definitely appears to be that its residents can utilize other means than going to a polling place on the day of an election to cast votes.
Tuesday morning, the Calloway County Clerk’s Office unveiled the official results for the primary, which was conducted a week earlier at a single precinct — the CFSB Center on the Murray State University campus — as a means to control the spread of COVID-19. And when those were released, they revealed that Calloway voters had chosen to vote absentee this time by an overwhelming margin.
It also resulted in a turnout of about 24% of Calloway County’s registered voters, which is higher than in some previous years, where primaries in the county resulted in single-digit turnouts.
“Considering everything we had to deal with, that’s pretty good,” Faulkner said. “You had only going to one place (on the day of the election), which was really different, plus you had mail-in and absentee voting going on for two weeks.
“I think what we’ve learned from this is, first, not to dread the unknown. It really may work out for the best in the end. I’ve also learned that it takes quite a few people to get something like this done. Of course, it takes quite a few people to get anything done in an election and I appreciate every one of them. I also appreciate the voters. They were great on how to handle things and any questions they had, we walked them through it.
“There were a lot of questions too, but now, I think we have it where, if it happened again, I’ll feel much more comfortable and confident in it and we’ll also be better prepared.”
Faulkner said that in the final few months leading to the primary, she did have fears, simply because there were so many unknowns involved. In other words, no election, at least in recent memory, had been designed to have more voters participate outside of the polling place than inside one.
“It looked much better than I expected. I was afraid of chaos,” she said, immediately recognizing those people most instrumental in the real picture being much different, and better, than she was anticipating. “I didn’t doubt anything about the team (namely the personnel at the clerk’s office, as well as members of the Calloway County Board of Elections and the poll workers) and I had all of the confidence in them.
“Organization was very important and this was group was super organized. We had two weeks (at the Miller Courthouse Annex) for in-person absentee voting and we’re used to doing all of that at our office and, being outside our office, that worried me a little. What happened? It worked really well.”
Calloway County Democratic Party Chairman David Ramey said he believes that, while a pandemic caused the increase in absentee voting, the results speak for themselves.
“I think one of the things we’ve done with expanded voting is obvious; we’ve seen a lot more people exercise the opportunity to vote and we’re going to have a significant conversation between now and November,” Ramey said. “Some people are going to want to go backwards and put restrictions on voting again to make it harder for people to vote.
“It’s a historic primary turnout in a presidential year. If you had talked to anybody earlier in the year, the estimate statewide was a turnout of maybe 10 percent. The governor (Andy Beshear, a Democrat) and the Republican Secretary of State (Michael Adams) had an agreement on this and I think it’s worked very well.”
Statewide numbers Tuesday are indicating that the statewide turnout is about 29%. That is about 9% higher than four years ago.
Still, Kentucky 1st District GOP Chairman Greg DeLancey said that, while that is improved, the numbers themselves are still quite low.
“It’s good to see people engaged in the process,” he said of the improvement in the commonwealth, “but that’s still pretty bad.
“We had to do voting like this because it was an unusual situation (with the pandemic), but I am hoping that we don’t have to do this in November, and I’m like a lot of people who don’t want to create more of an opportunity for fraud and abuse. When you’re in-person, you present a photo ID and there’s no doubt that you are who you say you are.
“You’ve got to do the best thing you can do and I think Michael Adams and the Secretary of State’s Office did the best they could under the circumstances. Going forward, hopefully we can get through the November election with more in-person voting.
Statewide, President Donald Trump handily won the GOP primary with 86.6% of the vote, while former Vice President Joe Biden took the Democrats’ side of the presidential race with 67.9%. Meanwhile, the most closely-watched race was for U.S. Senator, where longtime incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, easily rejected the challenges of several opponents to win the GOP side, while former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath managed to emerge with the Democrats’ nomination by a 45% to 43% margin over state Rep. Charles Booker.
In the Kentucky 1st District Court of Appeals race, Chris McNeill of Paducah won Calloway County by more than 500 votes over Jenny Hines, also of Paducah. Both are Murray State University alums. The district encompasses the 24 westernmost counties of the commonwealth and results from the other counties show McNeill earning about 33,000 votes with Hines second with more than 24,000 votes.
They were joined in the race by another Murray State alum, René Williams, a circuit judge in Dixon, who emerged with 14,000 votes and third place.