Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Fewer than 200 polling places will be open for voters in Kentucky’s primary Tuesday, down from 3,700 in a typical election year. Amid a huge influx in requests for mail-in ballots, some voters still had not received theirs days before they must be turned in. And turnout is expected to be higher than in past primaries because of a suddenly competitive fight for the Democratic Senate nomination.
The scenario has voting rights advocates and some local elections officials worried that the state is careening toward a messy day marked by long lines and frustrated voters — similar to the scenes that have played out repeatedly this spring as the novelcoronaviruspandemic has disrupted the 2020 primaries.
Because of a shortage of workers willing to staff voting sites during the health crisis, each of the commonwealth’s 120 counties is opening a very limited number of polling locations. The two largest counties will have just one in-person location each.
On Thursday evening, a federal judge rejected an effort to add polling places in the state’s largest counties, citing a legal standard discouraging last-minute court intervention in election procedures.
That means Jefferson County — the state’s largest, home to 767,000 residents and the city of Louisville — will have as its sole polling location a convention and expo center where voting booths have been set up about eight feet apart in a cavernous hall. About 1 in 5 residents in the county is African American, the largest black population in the state.
In Fayette County, the state’s second-largest county and home to Lexington, voters who want to cast ballots in person will have to head to the football field at the University of Kentucky, where voters will find hand-sanitizing stations and booths where they can fill out paper ballots and scan them through machines.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a reporter on The Washington Post's national political enterprise and accountability team, covering money and influence in politics. Follow