The deep red state of Kentucky has a high-profile stake this November with Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who nabbed the Democratic nomination, and the reelection campaign of the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican known for his obstruction of legislation dealing with safety net programs and enabling President Donald Trump’s racist policies.
It will be a fascinating and highly important election to watch, particularly after the series of improvements in the voting system to get more people to cast their ballots. Indeed, we’ve come a long way.
In Kentucky, all Kentuckians won a mail-in option for the first time ever.
Kentuckians won free postage on those ballots and drop-off locations in every county.
Kentuckians averted a push for all those drop locations to be located at police stations.
Kentuckians won a postcard mailing to all voters and a pretty significant awareness campaign from the state and civil groups like Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
Kentuckians won weeks of in-person voting in every county open to all Kentuckians.
“Voter suppression is an important issue for me, and lately it’s become a more serious threat to the election process in Kentucky,” stated Carson Benn from the city of Lexington, Kentucky, a volunteer with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. For months, Benn has been calling hundreds of voters throughout Kentucky to encourage them to apply for absentee ballots, and to ensure they cast their ballot by Tuesday, June 23.
Benn and volunteers like him sure made a difference this year. Kentucky’s primary election turnout broke records before a single polling location opened on election day thanks to the over 880 thousand registered voters who requested an absentee ballot by the deadline.
This is not to say that the process was perfect. There is certainly room for improvement, such as increasing the time window to vote on election day, such urgent need was reflected on election day in Louisville county. Voters banged on the windows of the only polling place in Louisville county, demanding to cast a vote in the Kentucky congressional primaries as the 6 p.m. deadline to cast ballots approached. The doors were reopened until 6:30 p.m. thanks to State Rep. Charles Booker who secured a court order that opened the doors and extended the poll hours to 6:30 p.m.
Booker ran for the U.S. Senate Democratic nomination, obtaining 42.62% of the vote while Amy McGrath obtained 45.41%
There were plenty of reports from voters who had a difficult time approaching the only voting sites in their counties due to traffic and even lack of parking. These are issues that should be looked at and fixed for November.
At this moment, Kentuckians should be proud that elected officials came together to improve the infrastructure of this year’s primary, and it is time for us to look at how we can keep improving the electoral process away from voter suppression. About half of all people with felonies in their past can not vote. People in jails who have never been convicted of a crime are logistically prevented from voting, and the Kentucky legislature passed a problematic voter ID bill that will go into effect in November. So we must look into these problems to keep letting our people take part in our democracy.
Democracy is strong when voters are able to cast their ballot to elect their leaders, and this year the deed red state of Kentucky has to be commended for their efforts to reach more voters, particularly during a pandemic. As for the McGrath vs. McConnell Senate election this November, voters will remember that McConnell has had his hands around issues dealing with separating children at the border, doing nothing about gun violence, passing tax cuts for corporations, and trying to interrupt programs that millions rely on like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Kentukians need leaders who will protect every day people who want to make their communities stronger and they will use their voting power to ensure that’s a priority.