WITT: Registration, voting should be easier in Ky.
Voter registration in Kentucky is in shambles.
While most people who go to their county clerk’s office will find affable and helpful people there ready and willing to help them get registered to vote, the arcane rules for registration in this state boggle the mind.
To start with, the voter registration form lists only three options for declaration: Democratic Party, Republican Party or other.
The problem with this is that one shouldn’t have to declare a party affiliation to be able to vote.
The only reason the form is configured in this manner is that the two parties don’t want non-affiliated voters to vote in the primary elections.
In a small box at the bottom of the form it states, “NOTE: You may change your political party affiliation at any time before December 31st to remain eligible to vote in the following primary election.” That’s pretty clear.
Compare that to KRS Section 116.045(2): “The county clerk shall cause all registration to be closed the fourth Tuesday preceding through the first Monday following any primary or general election, and the twenty-eight (28) days prior to and seven (7) days following any special election.”
You got that on the first reading, right?
While the newly-approved Senate Bill 2 has addressed numerous issues relating to voting, including absentee ballots and provisional ballots, the bill did not address the problem with the length of the registration period, and this is something that imposes unnecessary burdens on potential voters.
Per KRS 118.025(3), the Kentucky primary election shall occur on “the first Tuesday after the third Monday in May.” Why so esoteric? Why not just stipulate the primary election to occur on the third Tuesday of May (or any other day preferred)?
The point here is that, if one cannot register to vote in a primary that takes place at least 21 weeks into the year following the end of the previous year, it represents a period much too long and it is doubtful anyone can justify such a long pre-registration period.
At present, at least 19 states allow Election Day voter registration, and some of the states with longer stipulated periods of pre-registration permit “unaffiliated registered voters to re-register up to Election Day.”
This last allowance would seem to indicate that the parties in those states are anxious to allow un-affiliated voters to participate, even at the last minute. Not in Kentucky.
Wikipedia lists 13 states that have long pre-registration periods, and only New Jersey and Delaware appear to have periods longer than Kentucky.
At least 11 states have “opt-out” voter registration whereby a person is automatically registered to vote when they renew their driver’s license. Each person can choose at that time to not be registered to vote.
The history of voter suppression in this country is rife with examples of unscrupulous and convoluted methods that have been used to control who votes, efforts usually targeted at minorities and the poor.
After every election, pundits lament the dismal turnouts of voters in the U.S.
Why then, do they not work to make voting and voter registration easier?
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at email@example.com.