Following Dismal Turnout in NKY, Chamber Looks to Engage Local Voters

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and others announced Tuesday a new public engagement effort to drive more Northern Kentuckians to the polls on November 5 when the state elects a governor and other statewide office holders.

The nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort will use traditional and social media, events, and direct voter interaction to increase turnout, a news release said. 

The effort includes a new website, votenky.com.

Northern Kentucky's voter turnout has traditionally lagged behind other parts of the state.

According to a news release, the theme of the effort from the Chamber is, “I vote because my vote counts for Northern Kentucky.” 

“On November 5, voters will return to the polls to elect our constitutional officers, including our governor and lieutenant governor,” said Kristin Baldwin, vice president of public affairs and communications at the NKY Chamber.

“Our region’s economy is critical to the overall success of the Commonwealth, and all too often, our citizens complain we are forgotten by Frankfort,” Baldwin said. “Candidly, I can't blame lawmakers for forgetting us. Based on our dismal turnout, it appears the citizens of Northern Kentucky simply don’t care enough to come out and cast a ballot.”

“We have a large population, but if another area has more participating voters, statewide candidates and political parties will devote the attention there rather than here, which has been proven in recent elections,” Baldwin said.

In the primary election in May, which featured competitive races for Democratic and Republican nominations in multiple races, including both sides of the governor's race, statewide voter turnout was 20 percent, while Kenton County's was only 12, Boone County's was 13.6, and Campbell County's was 13.5.

In the 2015 primary, which also featured a competitive race on the Republican side, only 9 percent of Northern Kentucky voters cast a ballot. Out of 120 counties that year, Boone ranked 101, Kenton 102, and Campbell 106.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Campbell County showed improvement, rising to 81 out of 120, while Boone dropped to 107 and Kenton fell to 108.

The NKY Chamber engaged its members to encourage employees to register to vote during Employee Voter Registration Week in late September. Other businesses and high schools in Northern Kentucky held voter registration drives and events.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare conducted voter registration drives during breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours at the cafeterias at its hospitals in Edgewood, Florence, and Fort Thomas during late September and early October.

Cooper High School in Boone County is among several Northern Kentucky high schools that held voter registration drives this year and it is now urging students who are old enough to vote to make sure they get to the polls on Election Day. High school students can register to vote when they turn 17 even though they aren’t eligible to vote until they are 18 years old.

At Cooper, the effort is being led by seniors Alison Beyer and J.D. Meyer, who launched a voter registration drive as a class project. 

“One of the requirements for AP Government class is for students to complete a civic engagement project to get them involved in some way,” said Steven Vockell, who teaches AP Government & Politics at Cooper. “After our class discussions about low voter turnout, J.D. and Alison decided a way to get our youth involved was a voter registration drive and letting students know they can register when they’re 17.” 

“Learning how low voter turnout is in Boone County was disappointing,” Beyer said. “We decided we could help change that by organizing a voter registration drive to help students register and let them know they have a voice in all that’s going on in our government locally and nationally.”

The NKY Chamber is working to maintain the momentum of registering new voters by getting all voters to the polls on Election Day. It has published an Voters Guide to provide voters with information about the candidates running on the statewide ballot on Nov. 5. Information about candidates in the election is also available on the 2019 candidate's page on the votenky.com website.

The GOTV effort will continue in 2020, when the races for president, Congress, U.S. Senate, Kentucky statehouse, and local races will be decided.

“I challenge the citizens of Northern Kentucky to make it a priority to vote on Nov. 5,” said Bob Heil, CEO of KLH Engineers in Fort Thomas and a former NKY Chamber board chairman. “There’s no reason why we can’t go from worst to first and take our rightful place as the top region in Kentucky.”

-Staff report