Election round-up: What Kernelites are seeing and hearing in Lexington

Lexington voters fill out their ballots at the Dunbar Community Center polling location on Nov. 3, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff.

Natalie Parks

Results update

Saturday, Nov. 7: The Associated Press, New York Times and other outlets call the Presidential race in favor of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes pushed the former Vice President (now president-elect) past the 270 votes needed to win. Earlier in the week, Donald Trump held the lead in Pennsylvania, which began to flip as absentee votes from Philadelphia were counted.

The New York Times also called Nevada for Biden, netting him another six votes.

Lexington residents, who voted majority for Biden, celebrated in downtown; meanwhile, UK students expressed concerns for the future Biden presidency.

9:19 p.m. AP calls 6th District in favor of Rep. Andy Barr, sending him to his fifth term in Congress for Kentucky.

Hicks’ campaign sent a concession statement to the media shortly after. In it, Hicks congratulated Barr and thanked the supporters and volunteers whom he’s met throughout the campaign.

“I have been privileged to be a part of a movement that was about so much more than just me, or just my ideas,” Hicks said in his statement. “This has been a campaign of, and by, and for regular folks, and I am humbled to have been a part of it.”

In local races, Hannah LeGris defeated Jessica Moehler in the Urban City Council race for District 3, which UK is within.

9:08 p.m. The AP has not yet declared a winner in the U.S. House of Representatives 6th District race, but Barr’s lead has increased to 15 points with 82% of precincts reporting.

8:19 p.m. The Associated Press shows Andy Barr leading Josh Hicks nearly 55 to 43 with 57% of precincts reporting.

The Associated Press called the Senate race in favor of Mitch McConnell just after 8:00 p.m., two hours after polls stopped letting voters get in line and an hour after most of Lexington’s poll stations wrapped up.

McConnell gave remarks to the press at his watch party in Louisville, calling his success a clear choice.

“Our country is going to get back on our feet,” McConnell said. “Our fellow citizens are not our enemies. There’s no challenge that we cannot overcome together.”

His Democratic opponent, Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, posted her concession speech on Twitter, thanking those who voted and supported her campaign.

“Although we didn’t get the result we wanted, the energy and optimism I saw in every corner of this state gave me so much hope for the future of our great Commonwealth,” McGrath said. “Today it is my sincere hope that our country can start to heal after these ugly and divisive field.”

The Associated Press called Kentucky for Donald Trump just after 7 p.m. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, as of 7:48 p.m., Republicans were leading in all the races, though Josh Hicks trailed Andy Barr by less than half a point.

Evening update

Any voter in line as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday night was eligible to vote – and at many Lexington polling sites, lines extended into the parking lot as the clock ticked down to 6 p.m.

At the Lexington Senior Center, 112 people were in line at 6 p.m. and were allowed to vote.

Line numbers had fluctuated from 100 to 150 in the hour previous, with most voters saying they were waiting 30 to 45 minutes.

Lexington voter Charlene White waited in her car to vote; White has a bad knee and is scheduled to have surgery soon, so her husband held her place in line. She said she waited to vote until the last day because she was undecided about her choices, expect “of course, get Trump up out of there.”

Another voter, Quanika Mabson, said she was adamant about voting so she did not mind to wait in line. She waited about 45 minutes to get to the front at the Senior Center, the location closest to her home.

She wanted to vote so her voice could be heard and she could know she did her part.

“I’m proud of our community for getting and making sure that they’re out there voting,” Mabson said. She said she’s trying to get more educated and engaged, so she was monitoring the news on social media throughout her day.

The polling station did not begin to shut down until around 7 p.m.; poll workers still had to shut down the machines, print totals and collect the chips, which go the clerk’s office to verify votes.

Leila Garry was the last voter in line at the Lexington Senior Center, with 111 people in front of her when the line stopped at 6 p.m.

Garry said she had planned to wait until the last day to vote and had come by the Senior Center earlier, but decided to come back later because of the long line.

Garry has not voted in more recent elections but said she felt it was important to do so in this one.

“it’s been a while and I know who I want to vote for,” she explained.

As she left the building just after 7 p.m., Garry said it felt good to vote. 

“Really good.”

Elections official Frank Cannavo said about 1,300 people voted at the Senior Center location on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The location also has a ballot dropbox which was utilized up until the last possible minute.  Two employees from the county clerk’s office came to pick up the drop box ballots promptly at 6 p.m., taking the votes before sealing the opening of the box.

Earlier in the evening, Lt. Col. Amy McGrath hosted her final stop of the day in Georgetown.

After greeting her children, she spoke for about 15 minutes, emphasizing the need to get government working again.

“I want to see leaders, and this is truly my hope, not only for Kentucky but for our country, that work together in good faith to do what is right for our state, for our communities, for our families and for our country,” McGrath said.

As the first voting results came in, McGrath was leading McConnell, though the lead disappeared as more precincts reported ballots.

Morning update

After months of anticipation and three weeks of early voting, the polls opened for Election Day voting in Lexington at 6:00 a.m. this morning.

Some voters were already waiting in line, like the first voter at Lexington’s BCTC Leestown polling place, who arrived at 5:30. Those who voted in the first hour, like UK employee Jordan Smith, said they wanted to go when they thought they would be fewer people.

By 7:00 a.m., the sun was rising and voters were shivering less. Most polling places had cleared their initial lines of around 30 people and were now showing a steady stream of voters in, steady stream of voters out.

Night shift workers like UK Healthcare employee Nekia Coomer, fresh off a 12 hour shift, stopped by the polls on their way home to sleep. Others stopped to vote on their way to vote, like Dana Warth.

Warth said voting in-person on Election Day is “more a tradition than anything else.” Warth was proud of how her fellow Lexington residents turned out to vote in large numbers.

“I’ve obviously noticed more emotion behind it but I’ve also noticed a lot more participation,” Warth said. “I think a lot of it has to do with that we had a couple weeks to vote early.”

A pattern soon emerged at Tates Creek Library, one of Lexington’s eight polling spots. At 9 a.m. the line for voting was 150 people long; voters said they waited for an hour to get in the building. 

A short drive away, Senatorial candidate retired Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath greeted press at the Lexington airport. McGrath has several events planned around Kentucky today to urge voters to the polls. She told reporters she thinks there are lots of voters out there who could still make a difference in the race. 

“There are a lot of people who have remained undecided, and they’re going to have to decide at this point, obviously. Then there is a lot of people who work full time or are just so busy. We’re all working with coronavirus, and if you’re like me, you’re also dealing with your kids at more than they usually are and that kind of things, and it’s hard to juggle everything,” McGrath said. “You may not have thought about voting, and so, we’re trying to get at this last minute to make sure that everybody gets out and votes, so they can get their voices heard.”

McGrath also praised the high voter turnout, saying she was excited to see the participation.

“At this moment, there are more people than have voted already than we saw in all of 2016 in Lexington. I think that’s just an enormous turnout. I think it’s good for our democracy. I think it’s going to be great for this race,” McGrath.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, as of 10 a.m. about 3,000 people had voted today. As of Monday, Nov. 2, Lexington was only 894 votes shy of surpassing the 2016 vote total. With voting continuing until 6 p.m., Lexington could have one of its higher voter turnouts in recent years.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams made two stops in Lexington, starting at Dunbar Community Center before moving over to Tates Creek.

Adams said he would have liked to see more polling locations for Lexington, but he thinks the lines are manageable. He does expect that more Republicans will vote in-person today and more Democrats will have voted early or by mail.

“What we’re hearing from across the state is fortunately steady but not overwhelming turnout. This was our goal. Our goal was to try to have roughly a third vote absentee, roughly a third vote early in person, roughly a third vote today,” Adams said. “I think we’re on track roughly for that to happen.”

Adams visited Lexington polling locations last week to push for more early voting. He said he would like Lexington voters to spread out more, but so far everything is going smoothly.

“We’ve monitored what’s going on in the rest of the country with intimidation and suppression efforts and so forth. We’ve not seen that fortunately in the 18 days of early voting, and we’ve not seen that today as of 10 a.m. at least any incidents like that,” Adams said. He predicted a quick count tonight.

By 11 a.m. the line at Tates Creek was down to 100 and voters told the Kernel they would rather wait in one place than drive to another location because they knew the area and were more comfortable there. Day-to-day activities in Lexington picked up as the day wore on and businesses opened.

Voters and poll workers are not the only presence at polling locations; voter rights group Equal Protection had volunteers at all the polling sites the Kernel went to. 

Poll challengers Gina Smith and Sue Scheff said they got involved with Election Day proceedings as a way to do something about their election anxieties. Poll challengers are volunteers who watch the voting booths to ensure that voters are not intimidated and that they get help if they need it. Both Smith and Scheff were troubled by reports of election fraud and misinformation.

Smith said she volunteered as a way to set an example for her two teenaged children.

“I wanted to get involved to ensure the integrity of the election, the integrity of democracy, to do everything possible I can to make sure they can enjoy the rights we have today,” Smith said.

Edison Research is running an exit poll at the Tates Creek Library on how Lexington residents are voting. Benita Hatter, the research poller, said she had gotten 77 responses during her first shift.

Most voters share a concern for potential election fraud and voter intimidation; few expect to have results for national races tonight.