Last year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul decided to run for the Republican nomination for president AND re-election. However, Kentucky law didn’t allow him to run for both positions because of their primary election system. Republican leaders resolved the issue by changing from a primary election to a caucus, which was held on Saturday, March 5.
It was obvious that the Republican leaders in the commonwealth had no clue how to hold a caucus.
I live in Boone County, Kentucky, in the northern tip of the state just south of the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Instead of voting at your local polling location, counties like Boone and many others, had only ONE caucus location. Instead of being able to vote for the usual 12 hours – 6am to 6pm – the caucus was only open for 6 hours – 10am to 4pm.
So now you have all of the voters showing up to one location and given half the time to vote. But that’s not the worst of it. All of the news agencies were predicting 5% voter turnout at the best, but from what we experienced, the voter turnout here in Boone and neighboring Kenton County was much higher than 5%, which is a good thing but was also a bad thing. No one took into consideration the traffic nightmare that would happen.
In Boone County, the caucus was held at the Florence Baptist Church on Mt. Zion Road. Mt. Zion Road to the west of the church is a one lane road. To the immediate east of the church is the freeway exit for I-71-75.
When I went to vote at 9:50am, I ran into a ¾ mile backup of traffic on Mt. Zion Road coming from the west. It took nearly 20 minutes to reach the turn into the church parking lot. I could see that there was a traffic backup to the east on Mt. Zion Road and back up the freeway exit ramp. What compounded the issue was that there were no police directing traffic at the time I went to vote. I saw a number of people making U-turns and leaving, making me wonder how many people didn’t vote in the caucus because they didn’t want to fight the traffic backup.
The line of people outside the church wrapped around to the rear parking lot. Fortunately, the voting line moved a lot faster than the traffic did getting there. I took this photo from my place in line waiting to vote.
After voting, I saw that they finally had police directing traffic at church entrance. The traffic to the west of the church on Mt. Zion Road was backed up over a mile and it was also backed up on Gunpowder Road that feeds into Mt. Zion Road.
My wife and daughter were attending a ladies Bible study when I voted. At 1pm they headed down to the freeway to the Mt. Zion exit so they could vote. They found traffic backed up on the freeway for over a mile. It took them forever to make their way to the church to cast their vote.
Even though the caucus voting ended at 4pm, traffic was still backed up in Boone County at 4:40pm. The law says that anyone in line to vote when the polls close are to be allowed to vote, so these people were still waiting in line 40 minutes after the official closing of the caucus, meaning that the traffic nightmare lasted from before the caucus opened until an hour after it closed. This was a photo from one of the local news networks taken sometime during the caucus hours.
From what we saw on the local news Saturday night, other counties like Kenton next door, had similar traffic nightmares of long lines of people trying to get to the single caucus location. One of the local Republican leaders went on the news to say they were totally unprepared and should have provided at least one more caucus location, but then she said the dumbest thing – ‘we were afraid that having a second location would confuse voters.’
So whose fault was this?
First I blame Rand Paul. He should have decided to run for re-election OR the GOP nomination but not both. By the time he pulled out of the presidential race, it was too late to change back to the normal primary.
Secondly, I blame local Republican leaders for not thinking through what they were doing and underestimating the large numbers of conservative voters in the area. Hopefully they learned from their debacle and we never have another caucus in Kentucky.