Judge denies request from Charles Booker campaign to keep Kentucky polls open

A Kentucky judge denied a request from state Rep. Charles Booker's (D) Senate campaign to keep polls open in Jefferson County until 9 p.m.

The judge noted that the court had already ordered that individuals who were at the polling place by 6:30 p.m. be allowed to cast their votes and that concerns over a traffic jam preventing people from arriving before polls closed were based on "speculation."

"This Court has ordered that individuals who are present inside the doors of the Expo Center no later than 6:30 p.m. shall be permitted to vote to accommodate those who were present at the Expo Center. Otherwise, the request that polls remain open until 9 p.m. due to traffic congestion is based on speculation, rather than any evidence that specific individual voters cannot reach the Expo center," the judge ruled.

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The Booker campaign's initial injunction said that a major traffic jam near the only polling place in the county, which includes the state’s largest city, Louisville, was impeding voters’ ability to get to the polls by the closing time of 6 p.m.

“As a result of this traffic congestion voters intending to vote are being [impeded] from getting to the polling place. Under Kentucky law the polls are set to close at 6pm eastern time but many anticipated voters who would otherwise intend to vote will not be able to cast a ballot,” reads the injunction, which was filed in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. 

“Accordingly, to ensure that the rights of eligible Jefferson County, Kentucky voters are not irreparably harmed, Plaintiff requests that this Court order the [Jefferson County clerk] to keep all polls in Jefferson County open until 9:00 p.m.,” it added. “These voters will suffer irreparable harm if they are not provided the full opportunity being denied them as a result of the severe and unexpected traffic being encountered around the precinct.” 

Jefferson County’s polling place, the Kentucky Expo Center, is one of fewer than 200 polling sites open in Kentucky on Tuesday. For context, Jefferson County alone usually has upward of 200.

The site has appeared to allow voting to continue past the 6 p.m. deadline, with Colin Lauderdale, Booker’s campaign manager, tweeting after 6:30 that “the doors to the Expo Center have been opened and voters are being allowed to cast their ballots.”

“Stay in line. Make your voice heard,” he added.

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Kentucky is only the latest state to hold primaries that were marred by long lines and confusion over how late polls would stay open. Similar problems plagued Wisconsin and, more recently, Georgia, with some Democrats claiming the issues were tantamount to voter suppression. 

Booker is running for the Democratic Senate nomination for the chance to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE (R). He is facing off in the primary against Amy McGrath, a favorite of the Democratic Party establishment who has raised enormous sums thus far this cycle. 

McGrath had been leading during much of the primary, but Booker has enjoyed a surge of momentum in recent weeks from progressive activists and lawmakers, cutting into McGrath’s fundraising edge and polling leads.

Updated: 8 p.m.