McCracken County Clerk's Office workers carry absentee ballots

McCracken County Clerk’s Office personnel transport postal boxes full of absentee ballots last week from the McCracken County Courthouse. They were preparing to send ballots to voters through the mail. The clerk’s office received 15,781 absentee ballot requests for the June 23 primary election, while in-person voting is also available.

McCracken County voters requested 15,781 absentee mail-in ballots for the June 23 primary election before Monday night’s deadline.

That’s a higher number than expected, McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs said.

By contrast, the county’s lead election official said 268 people voted with absentee ballots in the 2019 primary election. McCracken County had a total turnout of 9,175 voters, with 8,907 voting in-person for that election. There are currently 58,392 registered voters in McCracken County.

“And here we’ve got 15,700 requests just for mail-in ballots,” Griggs said. “That’s not in-person voting. I never anticipated a number this high for mail-in ballots.”

However, she’s pleased voters are taking an interest and believes postcards mailed by the State Board of Elections helped. The postcards were sent out to explain different options voters have because of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that generated a lot of interest in people that may not have voted in a while because we had a lot of phone calls from people saying, ‘Hey, I got this postcard and I want to get a ballot,’ ” Griggs said.

“So, I think those postcards helped spark a lot of interest in people too that normally really don’t think much about a primary election.”

Of course, it’s not a normal primary this year. In March, Kentucky’s primary election was delayed from May 19 to June 23, while absentee voting was encouraged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. McCracken County’s complete primary results also won’t be known June 23.

Early in-person vote totals and absentee ballot totals won’t be released until days later, Griggs said.

“I will be posting the totals for the people that come down here and vote on Election Day,” she said. “I will be posting those, but there will be no totals for mail-in absentee ballots until the 30th ... after we’re done counting and certified to the Secretary of State.”

Griggs said the county clerk’s office has until 6 p.m. June 27 to accept ballots that come in postmarked June 23 or before. If people don’t want to mail them, they can be placed in a drop box located in the McCracken County Courthouse lobby. Several thousand absentee ballots have been returned, as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, early in-person voting started June 8 at the McCracken County Clerk’s Office. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through June 22 (closed Sunday), or 6 a.m.-6 p.m. June 23.

Around 1,250 people have already voted in-person, as of Wednesday. In-person voting has been “very slow,” with only 47 people voting last Saturday.

“I just really want to encourage people to come down and vote in person,” Griggs said, adding that lines haven’t been long during the week.

The primary election features several local races, including Paducah mayor and city commission.

Mayoral candidates on the ballot are incumbent Brandi Harless, commissioner Richard Abraham and businessman George Bray. Two candidates can move on to November’s general election.

A write-in mayoral candidate, Dujuan Thomas, can receive votes only in the general election and his name won’t appear on the ballot. The write-in candidacy deadline is Oct. 23.

The nine commission candidates are Lakilia Bedeau, Carol Gault, David Guess, Raynarldo Henderson, Mike Reed, Robert Shy, Buzz VonTesmar, incumbent Sandra Wilson and Melinda Winchester. Eight candidates will move on to the general election.

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