Republicans in the Kentucky legislature are advancing a constitutional amendment that would move Kentucky’s elections for Constitutional Offices (Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, State Treasurer, and Commissioner on Agriculture) to even-numbered years. Specifically, they want these offices to appear on the ballot during Presidential election years, beginning in 2024:
“This is a nonpartisan issue,” McDaniel said. “I’ve put this out there when the Democrats were winning all of the constitutional offices and I’ll continue to put it out there if Republicans win or Democrats win. It doesn’t really matter to me. All I want to do is have increased voter participation and save money.”
If Republicans were truly concerned about “increased voter participation,” they would lend their support to efforts by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and others to expand access to early voting in Kentucky and streamline the voter registration process. But Republicans have balked at these measures to expand ballot access.
Thanks to Grimes efforts, GoVoteKY.com introduced online registration just last year and provided voter information resources. But Kentucky remains one of the most difficult states in which to vote early or by absentee. Our 6:00 PM poll closing time often poses a challenge to workers and families with small children. The inability to cast ballots early without signing a declaration that you will be out of the county on Election Day poses additional hurdles.
Just like the attempts to pass laws to weaken labor unions and therefore these organization’s support of Democratic candidates, the motive behind this initiative is rooted in the desire of Frankfort Republicans to strengthen their hold on power by playing pat-a-cake with democracy.
Kentucky has become a reliably red state, giving its 8 electoral votes to the Republican in the last five Presidential elections. In 2016, we tied with South Dakota as the fifth reddest state in the country, with Trump winning by 30%. Indeed, the “Trump effect” helped Kentucky Republicans gain a supermajority in the State House.
The GOP, then, hopes to nationalize elections for Governor and other State Constitutional offices in the same way, solidifying their grip on power in the State Capitol. Issues impacting the state would be lost in the fray of a national election and a ballot cluttered with offices from the U.S. Senate and Congress all the way down to city council. Candidates for constitutional offices would be invariably and unwittingly tied to national candidates. And thus is the aim of this amendment–to muddy the waters and distract voters from issues on which the Governor and these offices can have a significant impact.
If they truly care about increasing voter participation, they would support Grimes’ efforts. Until then, it’s time to call this effort what it is: yet another attempt by the GOP to use their current power to gain more power.