Garnet DaVania wasn’t alone in her leeriness to submit mail-in votes for the primary election.
The Summit resident was one of a steady flow of voters in and out of Boyd County Middle School on Tuesday afternoon.
DaVania said concerns about voter fraud swayed her from entertaining any alternate ideas.
“A lot of people are here, which is a good thing,” she said. “It’s a good turnout.”
Poage Elementary and the Catlettsburg Senior Center served as the other two polling places in the county. Greenup County offered two voting spots. Carter County featured four.
Jeremy Howell, of Ashland, tried to do mail-in voting for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was worried about the lines being too long, but the second signature line was hidden under a sticker.
“There is a sticker covering the front of the ballot you mail in,” said Howell. “I got to reading this morning to make sure and I wanted to make sure my vote would be counted.
“I got denied a chance to vote and I’m going to guess this (his absentee ballot) won’t count,” he said after trying to cast votes at Poage.
In the future, Howell will not be doing a mail-in ballot and will vote in person, despite lines or weather.
He added he didn’t think the lines had been bad for the election.
“They’ve gotten people in and out,” he said. “I’m pleased with the distancing and the protocols in place.”
Clinton Fairchild, of Ashland, voted in the November election and decided to vote in person again for the primary election.
“Obviously, I don’t think the turnout will be as great as what it should be,” said Fairchild. “The folks that could be elected will not have a landslide of a vote, if you will, because of the folks who have come to the area and have rallied here will get more support than some of the other folks.”
He thinks people are more educated on the candidates because of the pandemic.
“I think because of COVID-19 a lot more people are in the know,” said Fairchild. “They’re doing nothing but watching TV or being on the internet and I think if there was an internet voting situation (it) would be a lot better for the public.”
Clay Jones said Boyd Middle’s set-up in the middle school lobby supplied “closer quarters than what it’s been in the past,” but he said he was used to voting at KYOVA Mall.
“If I would’ve known that, I would’ve worn my mask,” he said.
Accompanied by his daughters, Jones said it was a family affair. His wife was inside working as he spoke to a reporter outside the double doors.
“It’s always important to voice your opinion and have your voice heard,” he said. “Voting is the best way to do it.”
DaVania said it was strange knowing the votes wouldn’t be completely tabulated for another few days because of the abundance of mail-in votes.
“I think that stinks,” she said.
George Groves Sr. offered some of his opinions on what, across the state of Kentucky, can be best described as an irregular voting experience. Groves said he usually casts his vote in Catlettsburg anyway, so the trip to the Catlettsburg Senior Center wasn’t really out of his way. But Groves said that distance would not have stopped him regardless.
“I would have driven about anywhere to vote,” Groves said emphatically. “Voting is important, and you’ve got to do it.
“I think the big difference is that they have more people working here,” Groves continued. “I think they are expecting a higher turnout. And there would have to be because they only have three places to vote. So they have more people to help. They slide you in and slide you out, and help you get it done.
“I don’t generally wear a mask,” he added. “But if it’s got to be done to vote, then I’m for it.”
Groves said that he didn’t have a lot of confidence in the absentee ballot.
“I just hope it doesn’t turn into fraud, because you know it can. I got five in the mail,” he said. “And there is only three people in the home that are eligible to vote.” Groves said that two of the family members who received the applications were no longer in the home. “I don’t think the purged their books, and they're not getting the people off the books that shouldn’t be on there any longer. Ours went in the garbage because we do in person voting, but that’s not to say everyone’s did.”
Malcom “Bud” Preece also chose to cast his vote in person. Preece said his girlfriend had helped him send for an absentee ballot, but he had forgotten to return it until Tuesday morning.
“I thought, this is election day, and I had better do something about it,” he said.
Boyd Middle offered just one electronic machine and the rest involved paper-ballot voting.
Adam Qualls, of Ashland, said the school was his usual place to vote every election, and he saw more people at his location than normal. He said they weren’t requiring masks once you were inside, even though most voters arrived wearing one.
Pete Fraley, of Summit, said he usually votes at the Boyd County Community Center, but he was willing to travel anywhere to cast his vote.
“Wherever we had to vote today, we will come and do it,” Fraley said. “That’s what you are supposed to do. I just like showing up and doing it in person.”
While some folks had to search out their polling station, overall there weren’t too many complaints in Greenup County.
After an early afternoon downpour, Robert Yates exited the polling station set up in Greenup County High School. While not his typical polling station, Yates said he didn't have to go out of his way to find it: it was on his way home from work.
Larry Reed, a plumber from Greenup, said “everything went smooth” at the polling station in Lloyd. Reed said the Greenup County Public Library is his normal poll station.
“We stopped there first, because we forgot,” Reed said, with a laugh.
Down at the old Raceland High School gymnasium, where voters at the southern and eastern ends of the county flocked, Derek Clifton said the reduction in polling stations didn't affect him at all; Raceland is his normal polling station. He said it went well for him.
“Everybody who volunteers to work here, they know how to do it and do it right,” Clifton said.
Jane Haney, another voter at Raceland, said she went to several places prior to the spot to cast her ballot.
“I'd rather be back at my church,” she said.
Carol Childress, another voter at Raceland, said she knew about the change in polling locations ahead of time.
“It’s been in the newspaper and I’ve received text messages about the change,” she said. “It was very easy.”
Shannon Johnson, of Raceland, has voted before at the Wurtland Fire Department but was satisfied with his voting experience at the old gym.
“It went very smooth,” Johnson said. “We stayed 6 feet away in line. It may have taken me a little longer to vote this time, but that’s probably because of the two precincts. The people that were running it were organized and they had hand sanitizer available.”
Johnson said he doesn’t mail in his ballot. He prefers to do it in person on Election Day.
“If people can congregate and stand in line at Lowe’s, Walmart and Kroger on a weekly basis,” Johnson said, “then I can do my constitutional duty and stand in line to vote (in person). I had the opportunity. The information was mailed to me from (county clerk) Pat Hieneman’s office for the absentee ballot. I felt it would be hypocritical that I can go into those places, but thought it was unsafe to vote.”
Betty and Roger Vanover didn’t mind the nearly 21-mile round trip to vote.
The Vanovers were happy to drive north on Ky. 854 and west on U.S. 60 from their home in Rush to East Carter Middle School to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary election, and it was no bother that their normal polling place, Star Elementary, was closed.
“Not at all,” Betty Vanover said.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many Kentucky counties to have just one location. Carter County, which has 26 precincts, had four: ECMS and Prichard Elementary in Grayson, Olive Hill Elementary and West Carter Middle School.
“It’s been low at this precinct,” said Louise Stapleton, an Olive Hill Elementary precinct sheriff. “Most don't know this precinct was open.”
Gov. Andy Beshear asked people to mail absentee ballots in lieu of in-person voting. Asa Madden, 38, of Olive Hill, nevertheless went to Olive Hill Elementary.
“I just think it's a part of the process,” Madden said. “It's one of the most important things we can do as citizens.”
There were hand sanitizer stations at the entrances to each polling place.
Roger Vanover said in-person voting instead of absentee shrinks the snafu potential.
“There’s too much room for error there,” he said. “It just looks like it would lead to a lot of fraud. … But I do feel that with just four voting places in Carter County, it would disenfranchise a lot of people.”
Henry Culvyhouse, Temecka Evans, Charles Romans, Ray Schaefer, Aaron Snyder and Matthew Sparks contributed to this story.