Voter turnout was considerably higher in Kentucky on Tuesday than in past elections, signaling increased interest in politics during President Donald Trump’s administration and the possibility of historic turnout in 2020.
Voter turnout in Kentucky was over 42%, according to unofficial figures from the state’s secretary of state office, a number that far outpaces the 30.7% who voted in 2015 — the last time Republican Gov. Matt Bevin was on the ballot — and the 31% that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes predicted days before the election.
More than half of Kentucky’s 120 counties saw over 40% of all registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, including large counties like Jefferson (45%) and Fayette (47%). Some counties, like Franklin, Woodford and Hancock, saw turnout above 50%.
Voter turnout in the state’s primary in May was less than 20%, making Tuesday’s turnout even more stark by comparison.
Democrats are celebrating the increased turnout, as Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who holds a 0.4-percentage-point lead with all precincts reporting, appears poised to oust Bevin. Bevin has said he would not concede.
“What I learned from last night is we can win everywhere,” Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said Wednesday, adding that Bevin proved you can’t “hate everyone you disagree with” and be successful.
And Democrats like Perez, who have long believed higher turnout means Democrats are more likely to win, see signs that increased turnout this year points to massive turnout in the 2020 election, when Trump will be on the ballot.
Roughly 56% of all eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 election, the lowest voter turnout has fallen in two decades.
Since then, however, voter turnout has surged and Democrats have pointed to their party’s deep antipathy toward Trump as the reason.
More than half of all voting-aged US citizens cast ballots in the 2018 midterms, up 12 percentage points from the last midterm election, the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey said earlier this year.
“What we saw last night in KY and around the nation, was that Democratic enthusiasm has not waned. It is bigger than ever. Voters — especially critical suburban voters — are turning against the GOP Trump brand,” said Kelly Dietrich, founder of the National Democratic Training Committee, an organization that trains people to run for office and work on campaigns. “The Blue Wave of 2020 could be even larger than 2018.”