Efforts across Kentucky to get college students registered to vote this year, including programs from the WKU Student Government Association and the online registration website launched by the Kentucky Secretary of State, have changed the amounts and demographics of voters.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes has been working to make sure eligible Kentuckians are encouraged to participate in elections.
“When we launched Go Vote KY in May, we wanted to make sure every person eligible was able to become registered and get to the polls,” Grimes said. “We have 3.3 million voters registered, which is a record.”
Grimes said a large portion of the 106,000 new voters registered are within the age range of millennials, a group usually criticized for lack of involvement in elections.
“Everyone believes we have lost millennials, but I believe they are wrong,” Grimes said. “Millennials are engaged and excited. Almost 50 percent of the registered voters are ages 18 to 25 years old.”
Grimes said 30 percent of new registered voters this year have come from online registration, which was launched and publicized by the Office of the Secretary of State through campus and community presentations this spring.
Lynette Yates, Warren County Clerk, says she has noticed the larger online presence in registrations, but voters are also still coming in to her office to register traditionally.
“We have had more registrations online since the website was launched in May,” Yates said in an email. “We also have processed several walk in registrations. We also receive registration from Driver’s License and several welfare agencies. It has been a busy Election season.”
Grimes said, while being registered to vote is an important part of the process no matter what method Kentuckians choose, she wants everyone to remember registering doesn’t count as a vote.
“Registering doesn’t matter if you don’t actually get out and vote,” Grimes said.
SGA President Jay Todd Richey and Chief of Staff James Line, who have also been aiding in voter registration, said getting students out to vote at their designated precincts was a priority for them as well.
“We have been working on determining ways to get students to the polls,” Richey said.
Richey assigned Line the task of figuring out how to get students registered and get students to the polls.
“We’ll be working with hall councils and a program called Ride To Vote to make sure students turnout on Election Day,” Line said. “If anyone needs a ride to the polls, contact the SGA office, and we’ll make sure you’re ready to go.”
Richey and Line have been working since the start of the semester to get students registered, or even interested in the election, which Line said has resulted in about 300 students registering to vote.
“At the start of the semester, Jay Todd tasked me with leading our first-ever SGA Voter Empowerment Initiative,” Line said. “I put together a task force to start planning and implementing what I saw as two phases of this process: registering students to vote and then making sure students turn out to vote.”
Line said he did everything he could think of in order to make sure he spoke to a vast majority of students. That meant going to classrooms, tabling events and even going to apartment doors.
Richey said one of the biggest points he wanted to stress to students was that it wasn’t just about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“We stressed that it wasn’t just about the presidency,” Richey said. “We wanted them to know the importance of other offices they could vote for once registered as well.
Reporter Kylie Carlson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on twitter @kentuckylie.