Voting Rights

Throughout our country we are seeing sad examples of the right to vote being suppressed and taken away from citizens who have the right to vote and have a voice in who represents them in government. Kentucky has seen legislation that has sought to expand voting rights in some ways. However, we still need conversations to ensure that all citizens in Kentucky have equal access to vote. Here are some of the methods we have seen used to restrict people’s rights:

  1. In some places, handing out water to voters is now a criminal act. Legislation in Georgia was passed that criminalized handing out water and food to voters in line. This most affects voters in more heavily populated areas where wait times are long. While campaigning in voting lines should be forbidden, fellow citizens should be allowed to support each other and ensure voters are hydrated and fed when waiting to vote. 

  2. Throughout America, 21 million people do not have an ID, which in many states would mean they are not able to vote. Not requiring voter ID has not been proven to promote voter fraud, but instead has meant that American citizens have been denied the ability to participate in a vital function of our democracy and have no voice in who represents them. 

  3. In many states, people with any felony record are no longer eligible to vote at any time in their lives. People with felony records are important parts of our communities and deserve a voice in who represents them in the government just like any other citizen would.

  4. Sometimes states clean up voting records, but doing so in a way that does not allow people the opportunity to update records before removing them. Keeping records cleaned up is important for states, but they should do so only after ensuring that they have contacted everyone who might be cleaned off the list giving these people the opportunity to update their records and remain in the voting records.

  5. In addition, we see redistricting and gerrymandering throughout the country. Gerrymandering gives politicians, or a political party, the ability to choose voters. This goes against our democracy which should be about empowering voters to choose their representatives. Here are some examples of what gerrymandering can look like:

These restrictions, and more, mean that citizens throughout our country are unable to make their voices heard through the process of voting that is so fundamental to our democracy. I firmly believe that ensuring equal access to voting is foundational to our democracy. Here are steps I believe are vital to take to protect voting rights. Many of these would appear in various proposed legislation at state and federal levels. As one of the most developed countries in the world, we should have an election system that sets an example of how a democracy should function. If elected Senator, I would fight to ensure these protections are in any legislation passed:

 

  1. Early voting every election - this last year showed that early voting was something many people across the country took advantage of. Early voting provides more opportunities for Americans to make it to a polling location no matter what their personal schedule might look like as they have more days to choose from.

  2. Longer voting hours - currently, in many states, polls open on election day around 6-7 AM and close at 5-7 PM, though some are open later. These hours represent the time when most citizens are at work, or on the way to work, dropping off kids, etc. These hours can make it difficult for some people to even get to the polls in time if they do not have the opportunity to take time off work etc. I believe that polls should be open later into the evening, providing more time for people to make it to the polls. 

  3. Mail-in voting - this last election also saw a record number of people take advantage of mail-in voting options in states that allowed it. Having this option likely contributed to one of the largest voter turnouts we have seen to date. I believe that mail-in voting should remain as a voting option for Americans even once we have emerged from COVID. This provides the opportunity for people who might be unable to leave their homes, or who may not have a schedule that allows them to make it to a polling location, to still ensure their voice is heard on election day. 

  4. Make election days national holidays - making primary and general election days national holidays would help remove many barriers specifically surrounding finding time in a working schedule to vote. Over the last many presidential election years voter turnout has hovered between 50-60%. Making both election days national holidays would help 

  5. Automatic and election day registration - currently Americans have to register to vote to be eligible to vote. It is easy for people to either forget just because life is busy, or to not be informed of deadlines to register. Automatic registration would ensure that anyone in a government system, with needed information on record, would be registered to vote. Election day registration would allow people who were not automatically registered for some reason, and missed registering in person to still be able to vote. 

  6. Modernize voting - I also believe that we should be having conversations around how we can improve and modernize America’s voting methods. This would include looking at options such as ranked choice voting that has been used in New York. While this is a large conversation, I do believe it is one that should be had at the federal level to ensure our voting system best allows voters to have a voice in their government. 

 

For more information on YOUR rights related to voting, check out this resource and share this information with your friends as we head into voting season next year. https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/voting-rights/