Kentucky, New York voters head to polls in primaries reshaped by coronavirus pandemic

Kentucky, New York voters head to polls in primaries reshaped by coronavirus pandemic

The disastrous primary days that have occurred in other states, including Wisconsin, where lines stretched for several blocks throughout Milwaukee, and Georgia and Nevada, where voters waited in line for hours, did not seem to materialize on Tuesday.

“So far, this has been a very successful election,” Kentucky Republican secretary of state Michael Adams said at a state Board of Elections meeting Tuesday. “Things are going great. Voters are really happy. I think they’re a little relieved that this process has been so easy for them today, that we’re getting a big thumbs up given the dire predictions over the weekend.”

As the state grappled with massive shortages of poll workers, Kentucky’s two largest cities each consolidated down to one massive polling place — the Kentucky Convention Center in Louisville and the University of Kentucky football team’s Kroger Field in Lexington.

By midday, lines in Lexington stretched for about an hour, according to local media reports and voters who posted about their wait times on social media. Officials added more check-in stations as the day went on in hopes of shortening those waits.

The campaign of Charles Booker, a candidate in the Senate Democratic primary, said that in Louisville, there were delays in traffic getting to the Expo Center — rather than long lines once voters arrived.

The campaign said Tuesday evening it had filed a petition in Jefferson County court asking for voting hours to be extended by three hours to 9 p.m. ET.

“For hours, we’ve been hearing reports that people are stuck in hour-long lines to park their car before they can vote,” Colin Lauderdale, Booker’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “We’re fully committed to ensuring that each one of those people can vote, which is why we’re filing an emergency petition to extend voting hours. We need to keep the only polling location in Louisville open, because every single voice deserves to be heard and everyone who wants to should be able to cast their ballot.”

In New York, meanwhile, some people who voted in person Tuesday said they’d had trouble requesting and receiving absentee ballots.

A New York Democratic consultant told CNN that people at polling sites have reported voters saying they were there because their ballots never arrived in the mail.

The New York City Board of Elections tweeted Monday afternoon that some polling sites may be late to open Tuesday because the subway system would be closed from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. for cleaning, which could result in some poll workers arriving late. Reports emerged on social media of some voters having to wait Tuesday as their polling places opened late.

In Kentucky, Democratic voters were deciding a closely watched Senate primary between Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot who is backed by the national party establishment, and Booker, a Black state lawmaker who has emerged as a national voice in recent weeks during protests over police brutality and racial injustice. The winner will take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the fall.

In New York, several competitive House primaries were at stake — including progressive Jamaal Bowman’s bid to unseat longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel.

Kentucky’s consolidation from 3,700 polling places to less than 200, including just one in the state’s two largest cities, led to concerns of a suppressed Black vote, including from national figures such as Hillary Clinton, NBA star LeBron James and Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate.

Booker has also been a vocal critic of the state’s limited in-person voting options. His campaign organized free Lyft rides to the polls.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican secretary of state Adams have repeatedly pointed out that the state allowed everyone to vote by mail after it delayed its March primary due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“They misrepresented what a Democratic governor and I put into place,” Adams told CNN of the concerns and criticism.

“We spent several weeks negotiating. I got some things I wanted; he got some things he wanted. It was a good outcome for voters of both parties and Republicans and Democrats both have responded positively to the more options to vote,” he said.

In New York, absentee voting was a particularly critical option available to voters in this primary election because of the pandemic. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing voters to request absentee ballots by citing a “temporary illness” if they feared contracting coronavirus at a polling site.

It appears that many New Yorkers chose to take advantage of that — according to data provided by the New York State Board of Elections, they have mailed 2 million ballots. There were just 115,000 absentee voters in New York during the 2016 presidential primary.

Results in both states will likely be delayed due to an increase in mail-in voting.

CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this story.

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