Chamber, Local Schools Working to Increase Voter Turnout in NKY
The nonpartisan effort to get more Northern Kentuckians to the polls on Nov. 5 has created tools to help encourage and inform voters as Election Day looms.
Vote4NKY is a regional Get Out The Vote campaign spearhead by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, organizations, foundations, and civic-minded individuals, which seeks to stem the tide of awful voter turnout in past elections in Northern Kentucky.
"Northern Kentucky has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the state," said Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Brent Cooper. "With every election we don’t vote, our silence negatively impacts our communities. When we don’t vote, the issues that are important to us go unnoticed, and we don’t hold our elected officials accountable."
"So we have created a couple of helpful tools to assist efforts to spread the word about the election and inform employees, customers, friends and others about the importance of voting on Election Day," Cooper said.
The website was created to not only encourage voting but to also help voters by with information about the candidates and how and where to cast a ballot. The website includes:
- Information about the candidates running for office on the following offices on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot - governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture.
- A link for voters to find their voting precinct.
- Links to GOTV social media sites.
- Information on how to vote by absentee ballot.
- Facts about voting, including information of Northern Kentucky voter turnout in past elections.
The NKY Chamber has also produced a Kentucky Election Guide that includes high level information about each candidate and describes the office they are seeking. The Chamber has reached out to its members, urging them to share the guide with their employees, co-workers, clients and friends.
In the most recent primary in March of this year, turnout in Northern Kentucky was seven percent less than the rest of the state. In 2015, the last time a Kentucky gubernatorial race was held, the three counties in Northern Kentucky had a combined 26.7 percent voter turnout, which was substantially lower than the state’s other two large metropolitan areas -- Jefferson County-Louisville at 34.1 percent (7.4 percent difference) and Fayette County-Lexington at 33.2 percent (a 6.5 percent difference).
The GOTV effort will continue into 2020, when the races for president, Congress, U.S. Senate, the Kentucky statehouse, and many local races will be decided.
Local schools helping GOTV efforts
High schools across Northern Kentucky are using classroom instruction and projects, voter registration drives, and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts to encourage students to cast ballots in the upcoming election on Nov. 5.
“Even as young people, we have a lot of different concerns about what is going on in our government,” said Cooper High School Senior J.D. Meyer, who along with fellow Senior Alison Beyer launched a voter registration drive as a class project at the Boone County school. “We can have a say in addressing those concerns by registering to vote and actually showing up to vote. Having the voter registration drive at our school will hopefully get more young people involved.”
The schools’ focus on educating their students about the importance of voting dovetails with Vote for NKY, a broader regional GOTV nonpartisan campaign spearhead by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, organizations, foundations, and civic-minded individuals, which seeks to stem the tide of dismal voter turnout in past elections in Northern Kentucky.
In the most recent primary in March of this year, turnout in Northern Kentucky was seven percent less than the rest of the state. In 2015, the last time a Kentucky gubernational race was held, the three counties in Northern Kentucky had a combined 26.7 percent voter turnout, which was substantially lower than the state’s other two large metropolitan areas -- Jefferson County-Louisville at 34.1 percent (7.4 percent difference) and Fayette County-Lexington at 33.2 percent (a 6.5 percent difference).
“There is no better civics lesson than teaching students the importance and value of voting,” said Kristin Baldwin, the Northern Kentucky Chamber’s vice president of public affairs and communication. “A teenager that is encouraged to vote now has a much better chance of being a lifetime voter. We applaud the school districts, administrators, teachers and students for focusing on fulfilling one of the most sacred and treasured duties we have as American citizens -- the right to vote.”
Kentucky law allows 17 year olds to preregister to vote, although voters must be 18 to legally cast a vote.
Here are some examples of how schools in Northern Kentucky are encouraging students to vote:
- At Conner High School in Boone County, more than 100 seniors registered to vote through a voter registration drive spearheaded by its seniors, according to Principal Andy Wyckoff.
- Students can register to vote through a program in place at Boone County High School, said Principal Timothy Schlotman.
- At Calvary Christian School in Taylor Mill, Headmaster Bill Dickens said that all seniors take a U.S. government course and the 18-year-old students are encouraged to register and vote.
- At Dayton High School, every student who was 18 years old by Election Day has been registered to vote, said social studies teacher Brad Campbell, who personally engages the students and sends them to GoVoteKY.com to register to vote or to confirm that they have registered.
Cooper High School’s Steven Vockell, who teaches Advanced Placement Government & Politics, said voter registration drives and other efforts to encourage voting also teach students to learn more about the issues as well as how to rationally discuss politics.
“The kids in my class care a lot about what is going on in our government and they want to understand and be involved,” Vockell said. “We have great discussions and passionate debates. They are respectful of each other and we discuss all sides of what is going on in our government.”
Cooper Senior Alison Beyer said she was “shocked” by the low voter turnout in Boone County.
“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 both locally and nationally,” she said.