There's an election on Tuesday. It's a limited ballot. With the exception of some local candidate replacement races, a Kentucky Supreme Court seat in the first district, only state executive branch offices are on the ballot. No sheriffs. No county judges. No state senators or state representatives. No presidents, senators or congressmen.
That's no accident. The General Assembly set it up that way.
Elections are state run and state regulated. Section 148 of the Kentucky Constitution provides (the breaks are added)
- Not more than one election each year shall be held in this State or in any city, town, district, urban-county or county thereof, except as otherwise provided in this
- All regular elections of State, county, city, town, urban-county, or district officers shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
- All elections by the people shall be between the hours of six o'clock a.m. and seven o'clock p.m., but the General Assembly may change said hours, and all officers of any election shall be residents and voters in the precinct in which they act.
- The General Assembly shall provide by law that all employers shall allow employees, under reasonable regulations, at least four hours on election days, in which to cast their
(emphasis added - how many employers and employees know this?)
Section 153 gives the Legislative control over elections:
Except as otherwise herein expressly provided, the General Assembly shall have power to provide by general law for the manner of voting, for ascertaining the result of elections and making due returns thereof, for issuing certificates or commissions to all persons entitled thereto, and for the trial of contested elections.
It is a given that local elections (at least in rural areas where friends and family members are on the ballot), bring voters to the polls. Jack and Jill, your neighbors or the kinfolk of your neighbors, are on the ballot running for mayor, county judge, sheriff. Voter turnout in urban areas tend not to be as personal. In Lexington, Louisville, Northern Kentucky, candidates run in larger districts and chances of knowing one personally are lessened.
National elections, like the one coming in 2020 bring out voters in record numbers. Already more voters know who's running for president than who's running for office on Tuesday. Big money, big interest, big news coverage start earlier and earlier each election cycle. It's a matter of economics for media outlets. There's a lot of dough being dropped by campaigns and groups with cryptic names like "Friends of a Better Kentucky" (I made that one up).
The Kentucky Legislature had to know all this on a gut level when it scheduled executive offices in off years. It is a move undertaken to limit turnout. So far it has worked masterfully.
Because of that jujitsu move by the Kentucky General Assembly, turn out on Tuesday is predicted to hover around 31%. As bad as that sounds, it's higher than the last state election in 2015.
That despite a record number of new voters registered before the May primary. Record numbers register before May 2019 primary
Kentucky voters, unless they can navigate to outdated and outlandish absentee voting rules, must go to the polls between 6 and 6. Period. Full stop.
Legislators didn't have the best interests of the Commonwealth when they set the schedule for this election.
It is time for change but there is little reason to think the 2020 General Assembly will do anything.
After all, every House member and a substantial number of Senators are on the ballot with the presidential race where party affiliation is everything.