High turnout due to Clinton/Obama nomination battle
"The turnout in this year's primary obviously will be higher than it was four years ago mainly because of the tremendous interest in the Democratic primary and the Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton battle this year," he said, adding that competitive local and state races in some counties also should attract voters.
"The Democratic presidential contest now appears to be winding down, but since Hillary Clinton has decided to remain in the race in spite of Barak Obama's apparent momentum, the state still may have a role to play in determining the nominee," he said.
"Back in February, before (Clinton's big victories in) the 'Super Tuesday' primaries, it appeared Kentucky, which has one of the last primaries, would have absolutely no say in the outcome. But as the race heated up, it looked like Kentucky would matter."
Interest in the 2008 presidential primary has been reflected in the record voter registration, Grayson said.
"When registration ended after the third week in April, we had seen an increase of about 2 percent from November 2007 until the registration cutoff in April," he said. "Other states have recorded larger percentage increases than ours, but the 2 percent jump over a period of just about five months is a solid increase."
Grayson attributes most of the registration increase to young registrants.
"Young people turning 18 always are coming on line, but I think the strong interest among young people in Barak Obama has added to the number of young people who have been registering over the last few months," he said. "In my travels to high schools throughout the state, I have seen a lot of excitement among students about this year's presidential election."
Some 1.629 million Democrats and 1.040 million Republicans are eligible to vote next Tuesday, he said. Those totals include some 71,000 - 38,000 Democrats and 33,000 Republicans - in Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties, according to data on file in Grayson's office.
Another 186,000 Kentuckians are registered to vote but won't be able to cast ballots in the primary because they are not Democrats or Republicans, he said.
Earlier primary unlikely
Meanwhile, Grayson said there is "little interest" among state legislators in moving Kentucky's primary to an earlier date in order to become a player in future presidential elections.
"An amendment that would have moved up the primary was added to a bill (in the recent session of the General Assembly), but it went nowhere," he said.
The reason the state's primaries are held in May is because an earlier primary would conflict with the annual sessions of the General Assembly, Grayson said.
The legislature meets from January through April every year, and legislators don't want to be tied up in a session when a primary, especially one in which they are on the ballot, is being held, he said.
"In order to have an early presidential primary in Kentucky, what we would do is hold a special primary just for presidential candidates and then hold our usual May primary for other offices," he said. "The cost of a primary is now between $5 (million) and $6 million, and a lot of legislators and others don't believe it's worth the expense of holding a second primary during presidential election years even though they occur only every four years."
Kentucky held a presidential primary in March 1988 as part of "Super Tuesday" of Southern states, Grayson said. The cost of that primary and the relatively light turnout were the reasons that county clerks and state legislators cited for deciding not to participate in future regional presidential primaries, he said.
However, the national association of secretaries of state has proposed a regional presidential primary plan in the future, Grayson said.
Under the plan, states would be divided into four regions with each region voting at different times during the primary process, he said. The order in which the regions vote would be on a rotating basis, he said.
Kentucky held Democratic and Republican presidential caucuses in 1984, Grayson said. The two parties covered all of the expenses of those caucuses; state and local governments pay for primaries, he said.