Voters spurred by fiercely contested national, state and local elections raced to area polls today despite freezing early morning temperatures.
Long lines of as many as 50 people in some places awaited poll workers before the doors opened at 6 a.m.
While experts counting Kentucky as a lock for Republican Mitt Romney and some local races gaining attention in the run-up to Election Day, many voters said the main event was what drew them to exercise their franchise pre-dawn.
President Barack Obama wasn’t without his supporters, despite his dim chances statewide. Jeff Hunn of Danville said he was voting for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the Inter County Energy precinct on Hustonville Road in large part because he was concerned about the views of Romney and running mate Paul Ryan have on women’s issues.
“I have a sister and a mother, and I’m offended by the positions the Republicans have on the things that affect women,” Hunn said, before listing abortion rights and equal pay for women among the issues he trusted Obama on more than the challengers.
Others took a “throw the bums out” approach, directing their ire at any incumbent.
“Pretty much if they are in office I’m not voting for them,” said Sherry Anderson of Danville, who added that there are too many issues she is concerned about to name and still make it to work on time.
The bustling voting booths stood in stark contrast to the spring primary, when tumbleweeds rolling through the polling places wouldn’t have seemed out of place.
“In¿May, we did a lot of standing around and talking to each other because that’s about all we could do,” said Gary Gorley, a veteran of the Danville High School precinct housed at the First Christian Church on Lexington Road. “It’s going to be a long day. But it seems like everyone has been in good spirits and that’s something you hope to see all day.”
Poll worker Howard Szatkowski said his Perryville Road precinct at Inter County had already seen more voters — 21 — cast ballots before 7 a.m. than the total number during the primary.
Officials had predicted high turnout because of record numbers of absentee ballots cast in the weeks before the election.
Boyle County Clerk Trille Bottom said there were 548 votes cast on the machines at the courthouse, in addition to 200-250 mail-in ballots her staff would begin counting at 10 a.m. today. She predicted turnout as high as 60 percent.
Other county clerk’s offices saw similar early action. As of 3 p.m. Monday, Mercer reported 586 total absentee ballots, Lincoln had 418 early machine votes and had sent out 181 paper ballots by mail, and 295 people had voted in person in Garrard.
Deputy clerks in those counties said those numbers were unusually high.
Lynn Zellen, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, said more than 105,000 Kentucky voters had voted either in person or by requesting a mail-in ballot. Grimes has predicted turnout between 62-64 percent based on the absentee voting, races with broad interest and booming voter registration across the state.
The more than 3 million people now on state rolls is 130,000 more than 2008 and the highest registration number in state history.
Zellen said Grimes’ office had been monitoring the impact Hurricane Sandy could have had — either through disruption to early voting in Kentucky or because residents may go to regions affected by the storm to provide aid — but no county clerks’ offices had to close because of weather.
Bottom said there had been some glitches with voting machines, but technicians from Harp Enterprises, the company that manufactures the machines, had been able to correct any problems without major disruptions. One machine that did not work was replaced with a backup before the polls opened.
“We told election workers during training to expect a lot of people,” Bottom said. “It looks like it’s happening.”