Jayleen Oliver could have voted absentee prior to Tuesday’s primary election.
But Oliver said she didn’t have confidence in the absentee process.
“For me, voting (absentee) is not voting,” Oliver said, as she left the Owensboro Sportscenter, Daviess County’s only polling place for Tuesday’s primary. “You’re not sure where your vote is going to go.”
Oliver was one of the 4,206 voters who cast ballots in person at the Sportscenter in Tuesday’s primary. As of Tuesday night, 12,308 ballots had been counted, including all those from the Sportscenter, the more than 2,000 who voted at the county courthouse in the days before the primary and thousands of mailed-in absentee ballots.
But not every mailed-in ballot received by the clerk’s office as of Tuesday has been counted, and more are likely to trickle in. Ballots received by June 27 will be counted.
Not every county released preliminary vote totals Tuesday night. The final results will be released on June 30.
One of the most closely watched races statewide was between Democrats Charles Booker and Amy McGrath, who are vying to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mitch McConnell. McGrath won in Daviess County with 3,731 votes, compared to Booker’s 2,179. The next closest Democratic challenger, Mike Broihier, had 231 votes, while the rest of the field ranged between 106 and 31 votes.
McConnell handily was the winner in the GOP Senate primary, taking 83.56% of the GOP vote.
Daviess County Democrats also selected former Vice President Joe Biden as their nominee for president. In the GOP primary, President Donald Trump ran unopposed.
The only other primary on the county’s ballot was for the Second Congressional District seat, which incumbent Brett Guthrie easily won.
Every state resident had the opportunity to vote absentee Tuesday, because of the disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic. A bipartisan agreement was reached between Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams, and they approved a plan to allow all voters to vote by mail, to keep people from congregating on election day.
But voters at the Sportscenter said they either weren’t sure if absentee voting was secure, or said they just had more confidence in voting in person.
“I just wanted to make my vote count,” Oliver said. “I just wanted to make sure my vote whatever I voted was going to be registered correctly.”
Daviess County Clerk Leslie McCarty said the clerk’s office took precautions for the primary. Inside the Sportcenter, workers wore masks and check in stations were separated by metal gates. The voting stations were wiped down after each use by members of the Kentucky National Guard.
“The line was around the building this morning” when the polls opened at 6 a.m. McCarty said. But, by 6:30 a.m., the flow of voters was steady but not overwhelming, McCarty said.
“Everything is six feet or more apart” in the Sportscenter, McCarty said. The Sportscenter was busy with voters until the polling place closed at 6 p.m.
Helen Norris, who cast her ballot Tuesday morning, said voting in person is a tradition for her.
“I never miss an election,” Norris said. “In 2011, I had a stroke. I got out of the hospital and my son brought me to vote.
“As a general rule, it is important to (vote) physically,” Norris said.
Kim Woodall said she went to the Sportscenter because she didn’t trust voting by mail.
“I think there is too much chance of fraud with absentee,” Woodall said. “I’m a people person. I’d rather go one-on-one.”
Woodall said, “Was I worried about the virus? No.”
Voter Amy Pride said, “I feel better seeing my ballot going into the machine.”
Voting with the safety precautions at the Sporstcenter “wasn’t bad at all,” Pride said. “It was easy ... it was spread out.”
Mike Layman said he voted absentee in the past when work took him out of town, but he’d rather vote in person.
“There could be too much fraud” with absentee ballots, Layman said.
McCarty said there were few problems at the Sportscenter Tuesday.
Some voters who had received absentee ballots turned up a the polls, but the clerk’s office electronic poll books flagged them, McCarty said. Those voters who didn’t have their ballots with them had to sign affidavits that they hadn’t already voted absentee.
If a person did attempt to vote both absentee and in person, that would be caught when by the system, McCarty said. If that happened, the voter would be referred to a grand jury, chief deputy clerk Richard House said.
“Some people who wanted to vote couldn’t” because they were registered for the opposite party, McCarty said. A “problem table” was set up where people could change their party registration.
“A lot of people did change their party affiliation,” McCarty said.
House said, “A lot of people didn’t know how they were registered.” Some people who decided to vote in person brought their absentee ballots with them, House said.
After the initial surge in the morning, the traffic at the Sportscenter was “steady,” McCarty said.
“It was a dream,” McCarty said. “Everything was perfect.”
Mary Cornelius, who was one of the early morning voters, said she didn’t have enough faith in the absentee process to vote by mail.
“There’s less chance of anybody screwing up” when voting in person, Cornelius said.
The system set up at the Sportscenter was “different,” Cornelius said, but said she preferred voting in person.
“I’m a former nurse and poll worker, and this is what I feel America stands for,” Cornelius said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse