US 2024 election: What to expect in Kentucky’s primaries

washington — All of Donald Trump’s top opponents for the Republican nomination for president dropped out of the race weeks ago, but the whole gang will be back together on Kentucky’s primary ballot Tuesday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie all suspended their campaigns after Kentucky finalized its ballot in January, as did pastor Ryan Binkley.

Trump has easily won nearly every Republican contest so far, but Haley has won a significant number of votes in several recent primaries, including Maryland (20%) and Nebraska (18%) this week.

President Joe Biden’s opponents in Kentucky are author Marianne Williamson and U.S. Representative Dean Phillips. Democrats can also vote for “uncommitted,” which has attracted protest votes in other states.

Kentucky voters will also decide six primaries for the U.S. House. One race to watch is the 4th Congressional District Republican primary. Representative Thomas Massie, who backed DeSantis’ presidential bid and co-sponsored a motion to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson, is facing a challenge from Eric Deters, a staunch Trump supporter. However, Deters hadn’t reported raising any money as of the latest filing deadline and placed fourth in the 2023 gubernatorial primary.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday. 

Primary day

Kentucky will hold presidential primaries and will also choose nominees for the U.S. House, the state legislature and the state Senate. Polls will close locally at 6 p.m. across the state. However, Kentucky is nearly cut in half by time zones; most of it falls in the Eastern time zone, while 41 counties in the western part of the state are on Central time.  

Who gets to vote 

Kentucky has a closed primary system, which means that only voters registered with a political party may participate in that party’s primary. Democrats may not vote in the Republican primary or vice versa. Independent or unaffiliated voters may not participate in either primary.

Delegate allocation rules

Kentucky Republicans allocate their 46 delegates proportionally to any candidate who receives more than 15% of the vote, meaning any of Trump’s opponents could qualify for delegates. They could also splinter the anti-Trump vote, increasing Trump’s chances of being the only candidate to receive 15% of the vote and therefore the only candidate to receive any delegates. 

Kentucky’s 53 pledged Democratic delegates are allocated according to the national party’s standard rules. Twelve at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as are six PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The state’s six congressional districts have a combined 35 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any statewide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district. 

Decision notes 

While Republican state parties that hold primaries this late in the cycle tend to embrace a winner-takes-all system for delegate allocation, Kentucky Republicans are dividing their delegates proportionally among candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote. 

For signs that a candidate not named Trump could reach that 15% threshold, look to suburban areas like Louisville and Lexington. Those areas — Jefferson and Fayette counties — are also the biggest sources of GOP votes in the state. 

In the 2020 presidential primary, “uncommitted” and Trump were the only two options on the Republican ballot. Statewide, “uncommitted” received 13% of the vote in the GOP primary. In Jefferson County, however, “uncommitted” received 23%. 

In the 4th Congressional District — which runs along the Ohio River, sharing its northern boundary with Indiana and Ohio — the United Democracy Project, a group that has criticized Massie for his record on Israel, had spent $328,672 on the race as of last Tuesday. However, those ads have not supported an alternative candidate. 

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why. 

Kentucky mandates a recount if the top candidate wins by less than 0.5 percentage point. However, that recount rule does not apply to the presidential race. Candidates can ask for a recanvass of the vote, which entails retabulating the vote totals, if the margin is less than 1 percentage point. However, to request a recount, in which each ballot is hand-counted, a court must approve and prescribe the procedure. 

What do turnout and the advance vote look like? 

As of March 31, there were 3,487,292 registered voters in Kentucky. Of those voters, 43% were Democrats and 46% were Republicans.  

In 2022, 17% of voters cast their ballots before Election Day.  

How long does vote-counting usually take?

In the 2023 primary election, the AP first reported results at 6:03 p.m. Eastern time, or three minutes after the first polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 9:56 p.m. with about 98% of total votes counted. 

Are we there yet?

As of Tuesday, there will be 168 days until the November general election. 

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