Election board receives last ballots

Calloway County Clerk Antonia Faulkner, second from right, records a mail-in ballot Monday morning while Calloway County Board of Elections members Sheriff Sam Steger, far left, Melisa Stark, second from left, and Bill Cowan, far right, also examine mail-in ballots inside the Calloway County Courthouse in Murray.

MURRAY — The hard work for Calloway County election officials is over.

Now, only the revealing of the results for the county’s part of the Kentucky primary election remains, and that is expected to come this morning. Calloway County Clerk Antonia Faulkner originally had planned on releasing those results Monday, but because there is a race on the ballot that involves an adjoining county, and it was learned Monday that the results of that county would not be known until about the same time today, the decision was made to release those at the same time.

That race is for Kentucky’s 42nd Judicial Circuit Family Court Judge, where three candidates are battling for two spots available of the November general election. Murray’s Stephanie Perlow was appointed to that position earlier this year and is running against Marshall attorneys Ryan Yates and Catherine Fuller.

However, there also was another aspect involved, Faulkner said.

“We just want to make sure we get this right,” she said. “I’d hate to put a number out there (Monday afternoon or evening) and have to go back and change it later. We always put pen and paper to it with a computer printout, then we have another printout to make sure those match, and this one is going to take a little bit longer than just hitting the print button on the computer.

“Just from numbers I’ve seen from media across the state, there are couple of these races that are really close and we want to make sure we get all of those numbers exact the first time, and probably even double check after that. We want to get all of those right so that if there is a recanvass (where voting machine tapes are reviewed), there are no doubts. When that campaign comes in, they’re going to know we’re on the number.”

One such race is for the Democratic Party nomination for Kentucky United States Senator, where former Marines fighter pilot Amy McGrath of Georgetown and current Kentucky 43rd District state Rep. Charles Booker of Louisville have emerged as the main candidates of a race that involves nine candidates. So far, the only results made public in Calloway County were those from last Tuesday’s voting at the CFSB Center on the Murray State University campus, which had Booker holding a lead of about 60 votes.

An indication of how important this race is to Democrats has been seen during the periodic meetings of the Calloway County Board of Elections Counting Committee, which was formed for this election, as was the case in every other county. Faulkner said representatives from the Booker and McGrath campaigns have been present for most of those meetings, and they were again Monday morning when the final ballots that will be counted in the Calloway portion of the primary were tallied at the Calloway County Courthouse.

Those were mail-in absentee ballots, which were allowable provided they were postmarked last Tuesday (June 23). Four had postmarks later than that and were not counted.

“To me, this demonstrated how imprecise this process was,” said Bill Cowan, the Republican Party representative for the county board. “I would have preferred. from the state, that there would have been more emphasis on absentee walk-in voting, which, to me, is a whole lot easier. Not that we had that many (ballots) that were rejected, but, as you saw this morning, when people make a mistake and don’t do it right through the mail, they don’t get the chance to do it over again. When you make a mistake in person, you get a spoiled ballot and you can do it again and you’ve got people there to help you.”

Cowan also said that, while numbers will not be known now until this morning, from what he has seen, and with the number of ways voters could participate in this election, the turnout for the county will be considerably lower than he was expecting. His Democratic Party counterpart on the board, Melisa Stark, said that was not the point when it came to this primary.

“We have to remember the emphasis on this,” Stark said of how the Kentucky plan, the result of a team effort from Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, was designed to give voters the opportunity to cast ballots in the face of a global pandemic against COVID-19, a coronavirus that has killed more than 125,000 in the U.S. so far, more than 550 of whom are Kentuckians.

“The reason for this was to keep people safe from this pandemic. That has nothing to do with the number that came out,” she said, praising Faulkner, Deputy Clerk Lynn Paschall and the rest of the clerk’s office staff, as well as the poll workers, for making this process run smooth. “I was amazed at how well this was organized in our county. People had more opportunities to vote in this election than they usually do. They had two weeks and day of in-person absentee voting and had a state-of-the-art place (for last Tuesday’s main voting) on the Murray State campus and they could mail their ballots back in or drop it in a safe box (outside the courthouse), all while staying within the CDC’s guidelines.”

That was on display again Monday. With Faulkner wearing an N95 mask over her face, Stark, Cowan and Calloway County Sheriff Sam Steger all wore protective face shields as they sorted the final ballots.

“It’s been a different year, for sure, but we’ve done well,” Steger said. “We’ve spread out (the counting process) and not had to rush get everything in at the end. I think Antonia and Lynn have done a great job and, yes, we’ve had our shields on every time for counting.

“Hopefully, the November election will be a little different than this time.”

Faulkner said she believes results will be unveiled at about 8 this morning. The Ledger & Times will immediately post those both on the paper’s website, www.murrayledger.com, as well as its Facebook page, when they are presented.

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