Voting sign is posted outside an early voting location in Louisville. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)
More Kentucky voters took advantage of early voting this year ahead of Tuesday’s general election — which includes what will likely be a narrow governor’s race.
On Election Day, polls will open in Kentucky from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. During last week’s early voting period, from Thursday to Saturday, more than 260,000 Kentuckians cast ballots, according to the State Board of Elections. Democrats had a slight advantage in the polls, with more than 133,000 voting early. More than 112,000 Republicans voted early.
By the numbers
Turnout – 30.6%
Registered voters – 3,201,847
Turnout – 44.2%
Registered voters – 3,285,060
Registered voters – 3,484,827
Voter registration in 2023
Republican – 1,602,958
Democratic – 1,527, 115
Other – 186,432
Independent – 147,979
Female – 1,834,638
Male – 1,648,015
Election precincts: 3,650
Source: State Board of Elections
Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who is also seeking reelection, said on social media that last year’s early voting period saw more than 253,000 voters and predicted this year’s turnout to be around 42%, which is similar to 2022’s turnout.
Saundra Curry Ardrey, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University, said early voting is untested in Kentucky gubernatorial elections, but such voting could be an indicator of enthusiasm for the incumbent. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking a second term in office while Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron hopes to unseat the governor.
“If we have indications that there’s early voting and numbers are high, then we know that there’s enthusiasm behind that candidate, and we can expect that the regular turnout is going to be higher also,” Ardrey said.
Beshear and Cameron have continued to criss-cross the state in their bus tours, speaking to voters ahead of Tuesday’s general election. A FOX 56 News/Emerson College poll released Friday morning showed Beshear and Cameron tied at 47% among a survey of 1,000 likely voters or voters who had already cast ballots.
Ardrey said such “Get Out the Vote” rallies are effective, especially among younger voters. Beshear in particular has focused on visiting public universities over the last few days and meeting college students. Cameron’s focus has been on rural Kentucky, though both candidates have made stops in the state’s rural and urban areas.
“The key now is to make sure that you get your base out, and this is going to be a close election,” Ardrey said. “So, the candidate that can get and motivate his base out, and plus, get some of those independents, will have a good chance to win this election.”
Leading up to the general election, Republicans led voter registration, but Ardrey said that doesn’t necessarily mean those voters will back Cameron. According to the Friday poll, some Republicans plan to back Beshear. Plus, Beshear has courted Republicans throughout his campaign, selling “Republicans for Andy” shirts on his website and releasing an ad with a Trump supporter.
Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said both Beshear and Cameron have strengths heading into Tuesday.
For Cameron, those advantages include last-minute undecided voters and the recent news cycle, Voss said. Such undecided voters tend to lean to the right.
During Beshear’s visits to the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky last week, some students supporting Palestinians in Gaza, who are under siege by Israel in retaliation for a Hamas attack, protested during Beshear’s rallies.The Cameron campaign quickly took to social media to claim Beshear supporters included “supporters of terrorism.”
“In general, that sort of event leads people to activate their anti-immigration politics and concern with cultural change,” Voss said. “And if that’s been activated by the national news, those voters are going to start thinking Republican.”
Nevertheless, Beshear’s public university appearances could boost his support with young voters, Voss added. A key issue with this demographic and in the race in general has been abortion. The Beshear campaign has run ads attacking Cameron on his support of Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban. Even Republicans in the Friday poll were divided on the subject.
Beshear also has an advantage in money. According to campaign finance reports, the Beshear campaign’s fundraising for the general election reached $17.3 million total receipts compared to Cameron’s $3.9 million. But Cameron has narrowed the money gap thanks to support form outside groups. When outside committee spending is added to campaign fundraising, the Beshear side will be backed by about $35 million compared to about $30 million for the Cameron side.
Another positive for Beshear, Voss said, has been the absence of a large national issue “that was activating people’s feelings toward the national Democratic Party and the national Republican Party, and that’s good for him, because this is a very pro-Trump state.”
Beshear and Cameron will continue to make campaign stops throughout Monday. Cameron will also have an evening tele-rally with former President Donald Trump; they held a similar call during the GOP primary. Trump, who endorsed Cameron early on in the race, appeared in court Monday to testify in his civil fraud trial against allegations that he inflated his net worth.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.