FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s top election official says she expects 20 percent of Kentucky’s more than 3.2 million registered voters to cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said more than 12,000 people have already cast absentee ballots for a host of local, state and federal races. Of those, 7,533 were cast by registered Democrats and 4,821 were cast by registered Republicans.
A 20 percent turnout would be about average for the past three primary elections in presidential election years. Turnout in the 2004 and 2012 primary elections was 14 percent and 13.9 percent respectively. Turnout in the 2008 primary election was 32.2 percent, the same year Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were locked in a fierce battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Kentucky has closed primary elections, meaning only registered Republican voters can vote in Republican primaries and only registered Democratic voters can vote in Democratic primaries. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
The race most likely to drive turnout will be the Democratic presidential primary between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have campaigned heavily in the state.
Kentucky Republicans will not vote for a presidential nominee. The state party held a presidential caucus in March, which was won by Donald Trump. The purpose of the caucus was to accommodate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who was hoping to run for president and re-election at the same time without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election. But Paul ended his presidential campaign after the Iowa caucuses.
Instead, Republican races include nominations for the U.S. Senate seat held by Rand Paul, four U.S. congressional districts, 14 state House districts and four state Senate districts. Of the federal races, only one is an open seat — the 1st district, held by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield. Four Republicans are seeking that nomination.
Grimes said county clerks have reported a “lack of interest and participation” in the Republican primary races.
“I do believe the Republican Caucus held in March will play a negative role in anticipated turnout here in Kentucky,” said Grimes, a Democrat. “My hope is Republican voters realize they have a reason to get out and vote on Tuesday.”
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky declined to comment.