FRANKFORT, Kentucky — Political leaders are worried that lingering snow and frigid temperatures will have a chilling effect on voter turnout Tuesday in special legislative elections that, depending on the outcome, could inch Republicans one seat closer to a takeover in the House.
Democrats are fighting hard to hold on to positions vacated by two of their longtime lawmakers, Rep. John Arnold and Sen. Kathy Stein, both of whom resigned earlier this year.
"It's going to come down to turnout," said Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson. "When you throw weather in, it changes the dynamic entirely."
Crews had worked through the weekend to clear snow and ice from roads in the central and western Kentucky districts where polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. The chance of some additional accumulation was back in the forecast for Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Republican Suzanne Miles of Owensboro and Democrat Kim Humphrey of Morganfield are squaring off in western Kentucky's 7th House District race that could move the GOP a seat closer to a House takeover. Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority.
Democrat Reggie Thomas, Republican Michael Johnson and independent Richard Moloney are running in Lexington's 13th Senate District seat, which traditionally favors Democrats. Regardless of the outcome, Republicans will maintain at least a nine-seat advantage in the Senate.
Miles and Humphrey are seeking to replace former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis, who resigned in September after being accused of sexually harassing legislative staffers. Thomas, Johnson and Moloney want the seat vacated by Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who resigned after being appointed circuit judge in Fayette County.
Lynn Zellen, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said up to 20 percent of voters in the two districts are expected to cast ballots.
"Turnout in special elections is typically low," she said.
Democrats have been working hard to win both seats, hoping to spoil the GOP's longer-term goal of taking over the House while holding ground in the Senate.
"We have no margin for error, and we understand that," said Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon.