MURRAY — Michael Sutherland said he had a more pleasant day than usual during Tuesday’s general election.
To put it simply, he was busier.
“That made the day go a lot faster,” said Sutherland, a judge at the CFSB Center precinct, where voters came at a much more rapid pace to which he and his fellow workers are accustomed. In fact, that was true everywhere in Calloway County, which was swept into a wave of unexpected strong turnout throughout the Bluegrass State.
Wednesday, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced that the statewide turnout was 42 percent, about 11 percent higher than she had predicted before the election. In Calloway County, the pace 38 percent, still much higher than anticipated and higher than in previous statewide general elections.
“At our place, we had 178 voters, and that’s probably 80 more than usual. That’s about double our usual turnout, so it was a little busier of a day than we’re used to,” Sutherland said, adding that he and his team were not complaining about the faster pace.
“That means a lot more people are interested in the voting process.”
At the Calloway County Courthouse Wednesday morning, Calloway County Clerk Antonia Faulkner was still beaming about the stronger-than-expected interest her county’s voters showed. Out of 30,994 registered voters, 11,804 went to the polls Tuesday.
“That’s a very good turnout, particularly for a statewide race like this,” Faulkner said, comparing the last statewide race, which was in 2015. “That time, we had 31 percent (with about 2,000 fewer registered voters at the time and about 3,000 fewer votes cast) and that also was with us having several local races included.
“I understand that, in the numbers world, that’s bad. Actually, in the election world, (38 percent) is huge.”
Faulkner said she knew the turnout was edging toward a strong number when election officials realized the number of paper ballots for the e-Scan voting machines at county precincts started dwindling. She said most polling places ended Tuesday night with only about 30 ballots left.
“That’s awesome. All day long, our polling places were commenting about having a constant flow of voters all day, and we were happy to hear that. It costs each county quite a bit of money to run an election and it’s always important to show the candidates that there is interest, and it’s also a message to the voters themselves: ‘You have this privilege to vote; you need to use it.’
“And yes, one vote does make a difference.”
If not for his ultra-narrow win in the 2015 GOP primary for governor, it’s possible that Matt Bevin might not have held public office after unsuccessfully challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell – now the senate majority leader – in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary. But just over four years ago, he won the gubernatorial primary by just 83 votes. Several months later, he was elected governor over Democratic nominee Jack Conway.
Tuesday, Bevin found himself on the other end of a close race, with Democratic nominee Andy Beshear emerging with a roughly 5,000-vote lead in a race that is still technically still in play because Bevin has pledged not to concede the race.