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Was Saturday voting in Kentucky a success?

Posted at 6:16 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 18:19:08-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — This year, for the first time, Kentucky gave its voters the option to vote on Saturdays. That flexibility is something some voters appreciate.

"I work Monday through Friday, and Saturday is my day to get to the bank early, to vote, to accomplish things I otherwise can't do without taking a day off of work," said one Fayette County voter who was in line on Saturday morning.

So, how many people used this option and voted in-person on Saturday? According to the State Board of Election's rolling total, 225,616 people voted in-person as of Friday night. That number went up to 263,532 people on Saturday night. So, the math reveals 37,916 people voted in-person on Saturday.

That number is not as high as we saw earlier in the week. For example, almost 60,000 people voted in-person on Tuesday, the first day of early in-person voting. However, it's important to note that some Kentucky counties only had four hours of voting on Saturday. That's a smaller time frame than on weekdays.

Overall, the numbers are good news, according to Secretary of State Michael Adams.

"If we keep up this pace of in-person voting the next two weeks, as I expect, over 1 million voters will vote in-person before Nov. 3 and the lines that day will be manageable," Adams said in a tweet on Monday.

And all of this is not overly surprising. Some experts like Dr. Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, say if you make voting an easier task by moving Election Day to a more convenient day, voter participation will go up. However, he says it's unclear how much benefit comes from adding a bunch of additional voting days because many people who vote on Saturday would vote in-person on other days.

"If Election Day became a holiday or was shifted to a weekend, there's no doubt we would see some higher degree of political participation in the United States. Holding Election Day on a workday - on a Tuesday - does demobilize people," said Voss. "Now, the question of whether we ought to add days to vote is a little more complicated. There's more cost to staffing the voting locations or setting them up. It's not clear how many more people get roped in by Saturday voting because some of them would've just voted on a Tuesday if they hadn't had the Saturday option."

"It's much harder to say how much effect having that additional weekend of voting will have," said Voss.

Voss believes improving mail-in voting would have a greater benefit than Saturday voting.

"Mail-in voting - when you can send in your ballots early - is the one reform that fairly consistently has helped get people involved who otherwise might not have been involved with the system. And that's, of course, a reform that Kentucky has implemented during the pandemic," said Voss. "Mail-in voting probably is helping people vote who could not have voted - regardless of whether it's on a Saturday or a Tuesday - if they had to do it in person."

According to the State Board of Election's vote spreadsheet, 655,544 absentee ballots were mailed out to voters. As of Saturday night, 339,190 ballots have been returned.

More Democrats used the mail-in option. According to the state's totals, 421,772 ballots were sent to Democrats. 188,094 were sent to Republicans. However, more Republicans have voted in-person. The state's rolling total shows that 135,755 Republicans voted in-person as of Saturday night compared to 113,771 Democrats.