Kentucky Democrats outpace Republicans in absentee voting

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Democrats have cast absentee ballots at more than twice the rate as Republicans, but more GOP voters are turning out for early in-person voting, according to voting figures.

Through Tuesday, more than 282,400 Democrats statewide had returned absentee ballots, compared with nearly 116,000 Republicans. That trend is expected to continue, since absentee ballots had been sent to nearly 422,000 Democrats and more than 188,000 Republicans.

The numbers were provided Wednesday by the secretary of state's office.

In all, 655,562 absentee ballots were sent to Kentucky voters and 423,223 had been returned.

Meanwhile, more than 197,300 Republicans had voted in-person, compared with more than 156,000 Democrats. Early in-person voting began Oct. 13.

Secretary of State Michael Adams said Wednesday that he is pleased with the number of Kentuckians voting early, saying it's more convenient for voters and will reduce lines at the polls on Nov. 3.

“Rather than one Election Day, this year we have 19 election days, so take advantage," he said. “I'm also glad that nearly two out of three absentee voters have returned their ballots. We don’t want postal delays to disenfranchise any voter and we encourage absentee voters to either mail their ballots back promptly or use the dropboxes we’ve made available to county clerks.”

Widespread absentee voting and weeks of early in-person voting are the result of an agreement between Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Adams, a Republican, in response to the coronavirus.

It allows Kentuckians who believe they’re at risk from COVID-19 to vote by absentee balloting. That also applies to people in contact with others who are especially vulnerable to the virus.

The lopsided voting in favor of Democrats so far is being seen in states across the country.

Republicans have been bracing for the early Democratic advantage, as they’ve watched President Donald Trump rail against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud. Both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could quickly shift the dynamic.

Meanwhile, Kentucky's governor on Wednesday also urged the state's residents to vote early, warning that an escalating coronavirus outbreak threatens to get worse.

“You are safer to go ahead and vote in the next couple days, than probably what we'll be seeing next week," Beshear said. “What it means is you need to vote early, so we can spread people out, so there's less density, so you have less contacts."

In Lexington, the state's second-largest city, voters are being warned about the potential of extremely long lines on Election Day unless more people vote early. Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins urged voters to “please go as soon as you can,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

“We must do better or face the consequences on Election Day,” he said Tuesday.

State officials are preparing for a large turnout for the high-stakes November election. Kentuckians are making their choices for president and a hotly contested U.S. Senate race as well as congressional and state legislative races.