Seeking to boost voter turnout and increasing the region’s clout in Frankfort and Washington, a region-wide public engagement effort has been launched to drive more Northern Kentuckians to the polls on Nov. 5.
Led by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (NKY Chamber) and regional businesses, organizations and individuals, the non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign is using traditional media, social media, events, and direct voter interaction to increase turnout and erase the region’s statewide reputation as a place where voters aren’t engaged with the election process. The hub of the effort is a newly launched website, votenky.com.
“On Nov. 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.
Northern Kentucky voter turnout numbers for the region are jarring for how low they truly are:
In the past primary in May, statewide turnout was 20 percent. In Northern Kentucky, turnout in Boone County was 13.6 percent, 13.5 percent in Campbell County and just 12 percent in Kenton County.
In the 2015 primary, only nine percent of Northern Kentucky voters cast ballots, ranking Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties 101st, 102nd and 106th out of 120 counties. In the 2018 mid-term elections, Campbell County showed the largest improvement by placing 81st while Boone County ranked 107th and Kenton County came in at 108th.
Efforts to improve voter turnout have already started. The NKY Chamber engaged its members to encourage employees to register to vote during Employee Voter Registration Week in late September. Other businesses and even 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.”