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Ky. turnout expected to hit record as polls close

Brett Barrouquere, Associated Press

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky voters waited in long lines Tuesday that eased into a steady flow of traffic Tuesday on what officials expected to be a record-setting Election Day turnout.

Voters said they were drawn by the stakes of a ballot featuring a presidential race, U.S. Senate contest, congressional races and a host of local offices.

“People were moved to action. They educated themselves,” said Kim Acker, a 39-year-old registered Republican in Independence. “There are so many issues that touch so many people. This time, these issues are actually hitting people.”

Others found different reasons to get to the polls.

“I always vote because if I don’t like the outcome then I have a right to complain,” said 55-year-old Joe Roberts, a 55-year-old Democrat in Murray.

Les Fugate, a spokesman for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, said the longest waits Tuesday were in Lexington, Louisville and northern Kentucky. People were still waiting in lines to vote as the polls closed in the Eastern time zone at 7 p.m.

“We’ve had a couple of hiccups, but overall we’ve had a good election,” Fugate said.

The long lines were in keeping with Secretary of State Trey Grayson’s prediction of 65- to 70-percent turnout statewide, which could mean a record for the state.

Jeremy Gutierrez, a 28-year-old Republican from Mount Washington, said the high turnout was good, but some areas appeared unprepared.

“They didn’t have anyone telling you which line to get in. I think people were confused about that,” said Gutierrez, holding 6-week-old son Caleb, who had an “I voted” sticker on his yellow onesie. “That kind of slowed things down.”

The only serious problem happened in Kenton County in northern Kentucky, where malfunctioning voting machines forced the county to stop using some machines.

Kenton County Clerk Rodney Eldridge said the 108 eSlate machines in that county were taken out of service Tuesday morning. The machines weren’t lighting up when someone voted a straight-party ticket of all Democrats or Republicans. Deputy Clerk Danny Miles said technicians were reviewing the machines.

“I’m certain that the votes that were on those machines were counted,” Miles said.

Fugate said more than 90 counties use the eSlate machines, but no other county had reported similar problems.

Lexington appeared to have the longest lines with one precinct reporting a wait of 500 people at one point, Fugate said. The longest wait was a three-hour line in Lexington – confirmed by a relative of Grayson’s, Fugate said.

“We’re pretty confident they’re not making that stuff up,” Fugate said.

There were no long lines at polling places in Pike County in eastern Kentucky, while waits of up to 15 minutes were reported at some polling locations.

In Louisville, voting moved smoothly throughout a day with heavy turnout and some precincts still had voters waiting when the polls closed, said Nore Ghibaudy, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Clerk’s office. One person from Alaska tried to vote in Louisville, but there was no word on if they planned to vote for U.S. Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Ghibaudy said.

“They just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t vote here on Election Day,” Ghibaudy said.

Poll workers in Lexington escorted 21-year-old David Wigand out of a polling place after the self-described “wandering hippie with a guitar on my back” entered the polling place at Jessie M. Clark Middle School and started shouting “Obama.”

The bearded Wigand then took up residence outside the school entrance, played his guitar and talked with people exiting the polls.

For most voters, though, election day was much less exciting.

J.A. Wiley, a 78-year-old Democrat, voted in Mount Washington, about 26 miles south of Louisville. Wiley had to wait – but mainly because he showed up at 5:45 a.m. – a full 15 minutes before the polls opened – but still found a line.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever had to get in a line,” Wiley said. “Usually I can walk right in and get to it.”

Husband and wife Graeme and Lori Hart, both Republicans, waited 40 minutes to vote, about twice as long as usual at their precinct in Lexington.

Graeme Hart, a 47-year-old general manager of a small video production company, cast his ballots for Democrats Barack Obama for president and Bruce Lunsford for U.S. Senate. Lori Hart, a 42-year-old library worker, chose Republican John McCain and Lunsford.

“We cancel each other out, we don’t know why we’re here,” Lori Hart said.

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Ky. turnout expected to hit record as polls close