Charles Booker opened up a slim lead over Amy McGrath on Thursday in the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary, but it remains far too early to call the race with hundreds of thousands of ballots yet to be counted.
Booker’s small lead is inconclusive because only a small fraction of the vote has been counted. In the state’s largest county — Jefferson County, which includes Louisville — only in-person voting on Election Day has been counted and reported by The Associated Press, but there are at least 10 absentee ballots left to be counted in Louisville for every Election Day in-person vote.
The race is expected to remain uncalled until next Tuesday, when many counties expect to release their absentee vote totals. The AP has yet to report any totals for some counties, Election Day in-person voting or otherwise. The long delay is a potential warning for November, when it could take weeks to decide a number of the key statewide races and Electoral College contests.
“Look, I really want to know who won McGrath v Booker, too. But we just won’t know until next Tues,” University of Kentucky election law professor Josh Douglas tweeted on Thursday. “There are tons of ballots still being processed and counted. Early numbers don’t really indicate anything.”
Both campaigns expressed optimism on Thursday but warned that it was too early know who had won Tuesday’s election. Booker said he felt like he was in a “strong position” in early results.
“We’re going to have to wait a few days for final results, but we are fired up by what we’re already seeing in the early returns,” he said in a statement sent to reporters after he inched in front of McGrath.
Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, had a similar message.
“We are looking forward to tallies of the absentee ballots, which is 90 percent of the total vote,” Nickolas said. “In counties that have already reported them, Amy is winning by huge margins, so we feel great about the outcome.”
Booker performed well in the Election Day vote, which represents most of what has been released so far — likely thanks to his late surge in the closing weeks of the race. He won nearly 80 percent of the vote in Louisville, and more than 70 percent in Fayette County, which includes Lexington.
Those high margins may not necessarily translate to the absentee ballots, which represent the vast majority of votes. In Jefferson County in-person Election Day voting, for example, Booker notched just over 8,300 votes, while McGrath was a bit under 1,700 votes.
But the county has already received roughly 161,000 absentee ballots for both parties’ primaries as of Thursday morning, according to Nore Ghibaudy, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County clerk’s office. Ballots that were postmarked by Election Day can still be received until 6 p.m. on Saturday, and the county sent out more than 200,000 absentee ballots — meaning there could be as many as 40,000 more ballots that can still come in.
The Election Day in-person vote “is not much of a sample,” Ghibaudy said. He said the county anticipated reporting all of its absentee ballots on June 30.
Statewide, more than 681,000 absentee ballots have been returned to county clerks, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Booker’s surge in the closing weeks of the race came during the period in which voters could return ballots, meaning that some voters may have voted before his momentum began to crest — though it’s difficult to estimate how many.
Several counties have released some absentee ballots, which appear to have some benefit to McGrath. For example, Montgomery County, east of Lexington, tabulated about 3,000 votes, according to The Associated Press tallies — including Election Day and some, but not all, absentee votes, which may still arrive over the next two days. McGrath leads that county with 48 percent of the vote.
But in neighboring Clark County, only Election Day votes have been tabulated from the polling location. Booker leads with around 50 percent, but the AP tally is only around 400 votes.
The post Why it’s still too early to know who won Kentucky’s Senate primary appeared first on Politico.