Wednesday, November 3, 2004

State's determined voters brave long lines, waits, rain

Kentucky turnout

Enquirer news services

LOUISVILLE - Long lines and few problems were reported as voters around Kentucky went to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on everything from the presidential contest to a constitutional amendment on gay marriage.

The ballot also included a close, bitter U.S. Senate contest between Republican incumbent Jim Bunning and Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo.

Despite heavy rain in the western part of the state, precinct workers reported long lines. In Warren County, voters were lined up before the polls opened at 7 a.m. Some workers said they had never seen lines so long. As many as 50 voters waited for the precinct doors to open in some locations.

Lines also formed early in the south-central city of Somerset, according to poll workers there.

In Jefferson County, Board of Elections spokeswoman Paula McCraney said she expected voter turnout to reach 70 to 72 percent - even with dark, rainy skies that lasted through most of the morning.

Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw concurred.

"Despite the rain, voter turnout in Louisville was steady throughout the morning," Holsclaw said. "That's good, we want them to get out and vote."

Les Fugate, spokesman for the state board of election, said that office in predicting that 70 percent of registered voters will make it to the polls.

"Hopefully, the rain won't dampen that," Fugate said.

In 2000, during the last presidential race, Kentucky had a 61.3 percent voter turnout. The record turnout was in 1992 when around 73 percent cast ballots, he said.

By election eve, there were 56,630 absentee ballots cast with a possible 41,044 additional votes if all people return the ballots sent out by mail.

In the state, there are 2,794,286 registered voters, an increase of 237,471 voters, or 9.2 percent over the number registered in the 2000 presidential election year.

Fayette County also reported a heavy turnout early in the day. People were seen holding signs all over Lexington, some in support of candidates and other in opposition. One voter said he had to wait 40 minutes to cast his ballot.

There were some minor problems at different polling places, officials said, but they were taken care of promptly.

In Jefferson County, Holsclaw said her office received complaints of electioneering because people with signs apparently were too close to the polls and some reportedly approached voters.

"As soon as we get those type of calls, we send someone out there right away," Holsclaw said.

Tuesday's election marked Kentucky's first since 1998 without a statewide electioneering law. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the state law banning candidates and campaign volunteers from within 500 feet of the polls violated free speech rights.

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