Surging Coronavirus Cases Threaten To Derail Reopening In Ohio Valley Monday, Jul 20 2020 

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At the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green, Kentucky, vendors and shoppers are adjusting to the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes wearing face coverings, maintaining distance, and taking other precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

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Formerly Disenfranchised Kentucky Voters Cast Their Ballots Monday, Jun 22 2020 

For many in the Ohio Valley, voting is a choice, a right they are free to exercise if they want to. But for Jackie McGranahan and the more than 175,000 other formerly disenfranchised Kentuckians, this primary election is special. It’s her first chance to vote since 2008. 

She won’t be going to a voting booth. Elections are a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most voting in Kentucky is happening by mail. But even though she couldn’t go to the polls with her friends or be handed her ‘I Voted’ sticker, that didn’t stop McGranahan from savoring the moment of voting.

“I filled out the absentee ballot. I signed my name and I waited for my postman to come so I could hand it to him directly from my porch to know that my vote will be counted, that I have a voice,” McGranahan said.

ACLU of Kentucky

Jackie McGranahan

McGranahan lost her right to vote after being convicted of a felony drug-related charge. Until late last year, Kentucky banned people with felony records from voting, even after completing their sentences. Now, Kentucky is catching up to Ohio, West Virginia, and 46 other states, at least temporarily, by allowing some people who have served their sentences after being convicted of a felony to cast a ballot. Following up on a campaign promise, Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order shortly after taking office, restoring voting rights for people who have served their time for non-violent, non-sexual felony offenses.

McGranahan has been sober and in recovery for more than four years. She works with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and said normally she’s the one pushing other people to exercise their right to vote. She said so many people like her know what it’s like to not have a voice in politics.

“I remember on Election Day that everyone was taking pictures of their I voted sticker, and it was all over Facebook,” she said. “And it was really exciting for people, but for me, it was a different feeling. You know, it’s kind of, it’s an empty feeling.”

McGranahan remembers the moment her colleague called her to give her the good news. 

“She called to say, ‘Jackie, you can vote.’ And I remember that feeling with tears running down my face that it seemed unreal, but it was so exciting,” she said. “And my heart was filled, completely filled with just excitement, and energy, anticipation.”

McGranahan said the moment was short-lived and bittersweet because so many other people who have been convicted of a felony still can’t vote in Kentucky. 

Temporary Right  

Kate Miller is the advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky. She said she’s glad to see the progress that’s been made in the Commonwealth to expand access to voting for more people. But, she doesn’t think Beshear’s executive order goes far enough.

“We don’t think that anyone should lose their right to vote to begin with,” Miller said. “We think that individuals who are currently incarcerated because of felony convictions should be able to vote. And that’s true regardless of what they’re convicted of.” 

Miller said a year ago she never thought the state would see progress on the restoration of voting rights for Kentuckians, but she was impressed with one bill proposed in the 2020 legislative session.

“It was the cleanest bill that we’ve seen in a long time,” she said. “I think, ever, in terms of not excluding individuals not having a waiting period, not putting up additional barriers.”

Miller said that the ACLU often has to compromise, but when amending the state constitution there are only so many opportunities. In this year’s General Assembly, there was a bill proposed that would amend the state’s constitution and automatically restore the right to vote for many Kentuckians. The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Marion County and passed out of committee, but ultimately wasn’t put up for a vote in the full legislature. 

Miller said there’s nothing more fundamental in a democracy than having the opportunity to weigh in on who the decision-makers are for your community.

Beshear said he does not think everyone who has committed a felony should get back the right to vote. He said in his time as Attorney General, he saw the trauma that violent crimes such as rape, human trafficking, and murder can cause a family and community. 

“There are some crimes that are just so bad and the trauma is so severe that I don’t think it’s appropriate to restore those rights,” he said.

It took two Beshear governors to make the change for people like McGranahan. Andy Beshear’s father, former Gov, Steve Beshear, had signed an executive order on his way out of the office in 2015 to restore voting rights to some people with felony records. When former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin took his place in 2015 he quickly rescinded the order. That’s why Beshear wants to see the change made permanent, which would require an amendment to the state’s constitution.

“This is something that is a great step but ought to be enshrined with a constitutional amendment because it ought to become automatic and not depend on who the governor is,” he said.

Because her right to vote isn’t permanent, McGranahan said she wanted to savor the moment of filling in her ballot, not knowing how many more chances she’ll get. 

“It’s constant anxiety, knowing that in the back of my mind…like I’m very, I’m extremely excited to vote but then knowing, that this could be the last time,” she said.

Beshear also launched a website where people can check to see if they qualify for having their voting rights automatically restored. Kentuckians can check their voter registration online, and sign up to be able to vote in November. It’s unclear if absentee voting will be expanded in the Ohio Valley for the general election.

 

Gov. Reports 283 New Coronavirus Cases, A One-Day Jump After Weeks Of Decline Friday, May 29 2020 

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 283 new cases of the coronavirus Friday evening, a significant single-day rise, and nine new deaths.

Beshear cautioned against drawing any conclusions from the increase, saying the four-day average is 158 new cases, and that’s still a drop from where Kentucky was a couple weeks ago.

“I don’t want to suggest that it means something at this point either way,” Beshear said.

The state has now tested nearly 228,000 people. Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander praised the collaboration between health care providers and public health departments, and said the state is aggressively testing at long-term care facilities, where 1,885 cases and 244 deaths have been recorded from the coronavirus.

Protests In Louisville

Beshear opened his briefing Friday by speaking about the death of Breonna Taylor, and Thursday night’s protest, where seven people were shot. No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting.

Beshear said he lived in Louisville for 15 years before moving his family to Frankfort, and that it’s a special place but also a place where we can see the effects of Jim Crow, racism and longstanding inequality. He noted that Thursday’s protest was very peaceful, and more consistent with CDC guidelines than any he’s seen recently.

These were people truly looking out for human life,” he said. “Other folks very late, more than three hours, in came in and ultimately instigated actions that have been hard to see.”

Protesters broke the King Louis statue by Metro City Hall and attempted to tip over a police transport van shortly before gunshots rang out. Police later attempted to disperse the crowd with tear gas and pepper balls.

Medicaid Contacts Issued

The state has awarded its contracts for Medicaid Managed Care Providers to Aetna, Humana, Molina Healthcare, UnitedHealthcare and WellCare. Not on the list: Anthem or Passport.

Beshear said Molina has announced plans to put its headquarters in West Louisville and bring with it 1,100 jobs.

A representative of Passport said in a press release that the company will protest the award.

“I actually do believe that while this is hard, saying goodbye to Passport, that we are going to see investment from multiple of the award winners that will be transformational,” Beshear said.

 

 

Ohio Valley Continues Unprecedented Surge Of Unemployment Thursday, Apr 16 2020 

Unemployment insurance claims are still reaching unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

At least 287,576 people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s in addition to the roughly 755,000 claims form the three states in the previous two weeks.  

The data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor showing more than 5.25 million unemployment claims around the country. 

Labor Department figures for the week ending  April 10 show Kentucky with 115,763 claims; Ohio with 157,218; and West Virginia with 14,595.

Officials from the three states are looking to the jobless figures to understand how deep of a recession the region could be in for. Backlogs across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia continue to be a problem with some people initially being rejected for their unemployment claim.   

Kentucky officials announced this week that the additional $600 a week federal unemployment benefit has been sent out to 156,931 people totaling over $139 million. According to Josh Benton, the Deputy Secretary of Kentucky’s Workforce Development Cabinet, the state has had 521,592 unemployment claims since March 16. 

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Executive Director Jason Bailey said the unemployment assistance program is dealing with an unprecedented amount of claims and that raises an important question. 

“Are the levels of support and benefits we’re offering people adequate for the kind of economic calamity that we’re really facing at this point?” 

Bailey said unemployment claims could begin to decrease only to be followed by a second surge of claims as the economic fallout begins to affect different sectors of the economy. 

He said the reported claims are just one portion of people who are unemployed and need assistance. It doesn’t include people whose claims are still waiting to be decided, employers who are challenging those claims, or those who aren’t yet eligible for unemployment benefits.   

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said there have been more unemployment claims made in the last month than there were in the last two years and the state is also still dealing with a backlog of those applications. 

“We’re in this battle with the system that we have and it worked well. When the unemployment rate was 4% it worked fine. Both in terms of technology and staffing. It was adequate for the task it was being called to do.” 

Husted said before the pandemic there were about 42 people working in the unemployment call center and now there are almost 1,200. 

The Lt. Gov. said the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services hopes to have 337 more people trained and working to address the backlog in unemployment assistance applications soon. Additionally, Husted announced that by the end of next week Ohio will begin processing the additional $600 a week in assistance from the federal CARES Act.   

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said the state is processing nearly 40 times what they would normally see in unemployment applications and they are also still trying to address a backlog. In an attempt to get payments out to West Virginians sooner Justice announced people will be able to get a direct payment instead of having a debit card mailed to them. 

Philanthropist tests positive for the coronavirus after attending a Speed Art Museum fundraiser Monday, Mar 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

A Louisville philanthropist has tested positive for COVID-19 March 13 after attending a Speed Art Museum fundraiser, and possibly came into contact with several Kentucky politicians and the University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi.

The philanthropist, who has been identified as Christy Brown, started experiencing symptoms March 8, the day after she attended the Speed Ball.

The symptoms were not those typically associated with COVID-19, so she was not tested until March 12. She is currently reported to be in stable condition and in self-isolation. Brown is one of the 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky.

Besides Bendapudi, Gov. Andy Beshear, Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Council President David James, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. John Yarmuth were all in attendance at the fundraiser.

Beshear announced at a press conference on March 15 that he has tested negative for COVID-19. He went on to say that he would be continuing to work and manage this outbreak.

“I will still be here, each and every day, making sure that I do what I need to do to help get us through this,” Beshear said.

Bendapudi announced in a Facebook post March 15 that she is currently not experiencing any symptoms, but she is still self-isolating.

“It is always an honor to lead U of L and for now I will be doing so remotely,” Bendapudi said. “The health and safety of our cardinal community is my number one priority.”

Fischer and Yarmuth are reportedly waiting for their test results in self-isolation.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Gov.-Elect Andy Beshear Announces Inauguration Day Festivities Tuesday, Nov 26 2019 

Britainy BeshearCalling it “a time for all Kentuckians to come together on one team,” Gov.-elect Andy Beshear announced details of his December 10 inauguration.

Inauguration Day festivities are open to the public and include a breakfast, parade, swearing-in ceremony and two inaugural balls that last until midnight.

The governor-elect and first lady Britainy Beshear announced the events during a news conference at the state capitol on Tuesday.

“We believe that not just the Capitol doors, but all of state government should always be open to the people it serves and the people that come to work with, to talk to state government ought to be heard,” Andy Beshear said.

The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on the Capitol steps followed by an open house at the Capitol building.

Beshear will officially be sworn in as governor at 12:01 a.m. on Inauguration Day as he takes over for outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin.

Beshear, a Democrat, is currently the state attorney general and will have to appoint someone to head up the office before incoming Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron is sworn-in in January.

Beshear has floated the idea of having Cameron start early, but said he is still discussing the matter with Cameron.

“I’ve got ongoing meetings with the attorney general-elect,” Beshear said. “I think he’s being very thoughtful about the approach that he wants to take. We’ve known each other for some time and believe we can have a very good working relationship.”

Beshear said that he spoke to Bevin for the first time since the election on Monday. Bevin invited Beshear for the ceremonial lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

“It was a very kind call yesterday,” Beshear said. “We’re going to do that Christmas tree lighting together. I think it’s more than symbolic and it was a big and a very good gesture.

Beshear has announced some of his top appointees for his incoming administration, but has yet to reveal who will lead the eleven cabinets that manage most of state government.”

He said he would have more announcements on Monday, Dec. 2.

“It’s coming together, but as I’ve said before my goal is to get it right as opposed to being fast,” Beshear said.

The parade, swearing-in ceremony and inaugural march will be broadcast live on KET. More details about the festivities can be found here.

During Debate, Bevin Denies Linking Casino Gambling To Suicide Saturday, Oct 26 2019 

Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear participated in another televised debate Saturday night ahead of the Nov. 5 gubernatorial election.

Bevin and Beshear once again illustrated their sharp differences on issues like abortion, health care, taxes, and whether to legalize casino gambling to try and bring in more revenue for the state.

At one point Beshear criticized Bevin for making inflammatory statements like his claim from over the summer that casino gambling leads to suicide.

Bevin denied ever making the comment.

“I don’t know where this comment about the casinos comes from, I’ve never said anything like that, that’s absolute malarkey,” Bevin said.

Bevin made the comment during an interview on WKDZ in Cadiz in July.

Beshear has proposed dedicating tax proceeds from casino gambling for the state’s ailing pension system.

Expanded gambling has been proposed in Kentucky for years but has not gotten traction in the legislature. Republican leaders of the state Senate recently said the policy would be a non-starter.

On abortion, Beshear said that he supports the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that bans states from restricting abortions before the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb.

Beshear called Bevin’s stance on abortion “extremist.” This year Bevin signed a law that bans the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — about the sixth week of pregnancy.

“Under this governor, a 13 year-old raped by a member of her own family and impregnated would have no options. I think that’s wrong,” Beshear said.

Bevin said that Beshear is “pro-abortion,” and said that he stands by his record.

“It is critical that you be honest about the fact that you are pro-abortion and stop trying to couch it in all these safe little comments and trying to find examples where there might be an exception for this or that,” Bevin said.

Bevin also stood by his proposal to reshape the state’s Medicaid system by requiring able-bodied people to prove they are working, in school or volunteering in order to keep their benefits.

“I believe that able-bodied working age men and women, people who could go to work, people who don’t have dependents, should be doing something in exchange for the free health care that the men and women who go to work every day, that they might not have themselves, that they’re paying for,” Bevin said.

Beshear called Bevin’s Medicaid plan “cruel.”

“It just creates bureaucratic red tape and ultimately takes health care away from people,” Beshear said.

Bevin and Beshear will participate in two more debates before the election — the KET debate on Monday night in Lexington and a debate at Northern Kentucky University on Tuesday night.

New Court Ruling Could Make Expungement Unaffordable For Some Kentuckians Friday, Oct 25 2019 

People who can’t afford to pay expungement fees might be prevented from clearing their criminal record under a recent Kentucky court ruling.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals earlier this month upheld a Jefferson Circuit Court ruling in which a Louisville man who qualified as indigent was denied a waiver for the fee required to expunge a felony charge from his criminal record.

Attorneys, legislators, and expungement advocates worry the ruling will stifle access to expungements and undercut years of criminal justice reform efforts to return basic rights to thousands of people whose convictions have long passed.

“It is an injustice,” said Sadiqa N. Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League.

New legislation this year made expungement accessible to more Kentuckians. Legislators this year also expanded the scope of the state’s expungement law, making dozens of Class D felonies expungeable. But they stopped short of allowing expungements for convictions of certain drug trafficking crimes, DUI, assault, or a sex offense. 

The cost to expunge a felony is now nearly $300 — reduced by lawmakers from $500. Misdemeanors cost $100 per offense.

These efforts ignited a groundswell of support networks aimed at helping people clean their criminal records — philanthropists have pledged money and nonprofits are hosting clinics to guide people through the process.

In Louisville, expungements are in high demand.

And more than 400 people are signed up to attend an expungement clinic run by the Louisville Urban League on Saturday at Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School. Reynolds, a leading advocate for expungement, said the ruling amounts to socio-economic discrimination.

“We want people to be able to re-enter society,” she said in an interview this week. “We want them to be able to engage with society.”

And it’s not uncommon for low-income residents to be granted waivers for expungement-related fees, according to attorneys who assist residents in clearing their criminal records.

Since 2018, the Legal Aid Society in Louisville has assisted more than 1,000 people seeking expungements, according to Stewart Pope, the advocacy director the the Legal Aid Society in Louisville. About 90 percent of those people were granted a fee waiver by a judge, he said.

For many, Pope said the fees are just too much. And without the waiver, they simply wouldn’t be able to get the expungement. 

“There literally is no extra money,” he said. “The point of expungement is to get rid of these charges so that somebody can get a better job and hopefully get out of poverty.”

A Right Or A Privilege?

Felony disenfranchisement is pervasive in Kentucky: More than 312,000 Kentuckians are prevented from voting due to past felony convictions, according to a report published earlier this year by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.

Past convictions can keep people from getting good jobs and they block thousands from exercising basic constitutional rights, like voting or owning a gun. Kentucky and Iowa are the only states to permanently ban felons from voting. More than 1 in 4 African Americans in Kentucky are disenfranchised, the highest rate in the nation.

Clearing a record of a felony allows people to experience life in a way they cannot when they’re burdened by ever-present stain of past convictions, Pope said — they can vote, they can attend field trips with their children, they can seek out jobs without being forced to disclose their past transgressions.

But mandating fees could prove to be a barrier for some. 

In December 2018, Jefferson Circuit Judge Audra Eckerle denied Frederick Jones’s request to waive the then-$500 fee to expunge a felony theft charge he served prison time for in 1998. Jones declined to be interviewed.

Eckerle said that Jones, who reported earning less than $950 a month, qualifies for such a waiver. But she disagreed that the fees related to expungement are waivable. Eckerle said expungement is optional and the costs are not unwillingly imposed on someone.

Moreover, legislators who wrote the law did not specifically say the fee could be waived, Eckerle wrote in her opinion.

For this, she said Jones had to pay up if he wanted to rid the conviction from his record.

“Indeed, [Jones] has already had 20 years to amass the $500 fee,” she wrote. 

The Kentucky Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with Eckerle. 

Kentucky law allows judges to grant waivers for residents who can prove they lack the resources needed to foot the bills associated with appealing, filing, or defending “any action” in court. 

But in an opinion issued Oct. 11, the Court of Appeals judges ruled that expungement is different because it’s not a right, but a privilege.

“A privilege the General Assembly has no obligation to provide at all, and which it may therefore provide subject to conditions that our courts are not at liberty to ignore,” wrote Judge Joy A. Kramer in the opinion issued earlier this month.

The judges likened an expungement to a bankruptcy, in that there is no constitutional right to access a bankruptcy. Instead, the opinion said, it’s a matter of “legislative grace.” 

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a one-paragraph brief in the appeal, according to the Court of Appeals opinion, which ”stated in essence that he did not have a dog in this fight.”

Asked to explain his position on the case and if he supports fee waivers for expungements, Beshear’s spokesperson Crystal Staley said in a statement that the statute passed by the legislature mandated a fee for all expungements. 

“The Court of Appeals enforced the statute as written,” Staley said. “Attorney General Beshear believes that through criminal justice reforms to state law, expungements should be affordable for non-violent convictions that may currently be expunged under the law.” 

Beshear is the Democratic candidate for governor opposing Gov. Matt Bevin, who signed into law this year the expansion to expungement rights. Bevin’s spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment on the case.

Reynolds of the Louisville Urban League said support for expungement crosses party lines. One reason for that, she said, is because when people can clear their criminal record they can open themselves up for better job prospects. And hampering people’s ability to do that, she said, would be akin to the state “shooting itself in the foot.”

She’s hopeful the legislature or the Kentucky Supreme Court will clear up the confusion.

“I don’t care which body deals with it, it just needs to be dealt with,” she said.

Review Likely

The state’s highest court will have the chance to hear the case, said Cassie Chambers Armstrong, an attorney with Kaplan Johnson Abate and Bird who represented Jones on his appeal. (Armstrong’s firm has represented KyCIR in recent litigation.) 

“We’re talking about a law that affects so many Kentuckians in such a fundamental way, we’re talking about things like jobs and housing, and public benefits and the right to vote,” she said in an interview this week.

Armstrong said she intends to ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to review the case.

Karen Faulkner, a criminal defense attorney in Louisville, has guided hundreds of clients through the expungement process, and said many are granted waivers from associated fees. 

She worries that the Court of Appeals ruling will create a class-divide in expungement access — and the poor will be on the losing side.

“What we are looking at with this ruling is a circumstance where those people who have money are able to get expungements and those who are poor are not,” Faulkner said. “And I hope that the Supreme Court looks at the constitutional due process issues and overturns the opinion.”

Legislators who sponsored the recent expungement bill said this debate is an unintended consequence of their legislation. 

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, sponsored the bill in the most recent General Assembly that widened the scope of felonies considered expungeable, and reduced the filing fee to $250 from $500. Higdon said he always assumed judges would waive the fee for those who can’t afford to pay it.

But Judge Kramer, writing for the Court of Appeals, said “legislative intent is expressed by omission as well as by inclusion.” Higdon’s bill described the fee as mandatory and failed to state fees could be waived, the court ruled.

Higdon said if the Court of Appeals ruling stands, he’s certain legislators will work to “correct what was misinterpreted in my legislation.”

“It’s common practice in Kentucky that if a defendant cannot pay a fee, a judge has a discretion to waive it,” he said. “If I wanted to block them from getting a fee waived, I would have put wording in there to block it.”

Rep. Ed Massey, a Republican from Hebron, sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives. In an interview this week, he said fees should not inhibit anyone from getting an expungement and the legislature must be clearer regarding waivers for expungements.

“The courts should absolutely be able to grant a waiver,” he said. “Nothing would prevent us from revisiting the expungement bill and considering that as a legislative action.”

This Week In Conversation: Attorney General Andy Beshear Tuesday, Oct 22 2019 

Attorney General Andy Beshear is the Democratic nominee in the race for  Kentucky governor, and a recent poll shows he is in a dead heat for the spot with Republican Governor Matt Bevin. This week, WFPL’s In Conversation talks with Beshear about his platform and Kentucky politics.

The Mason-Dixon poll, which has a “B+” rating from FiveThirtyEight pollster ratings, found that 46 percent of likely voters plan to vote for Bevin. Another 46 percent plan to vote for Beshear and 7 percent are undecided, but the poll also found that Bevin increased support within his party since the previous poll in December 2018. The governor also has more crossover appeal than Beshear with members of the other party, according to the poll. 

But some political observers say Governor Bevin’s divisive statements regarding teachers could be a deciding factor in the race, as Beshear has lobbied for their support and waged court battles with the Bevin administration over teacher retirement benefits and other issues.

We’ll talk with Beshear about education, health care, gun laws and more ahead of Election Day, Nov. 5. 

Note: WFPL also reached out to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to invite him to share his positions on In Conversation. A campaign spokesman said it would be impossible with Bevin’s schedule.

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Vote Like Your Life Depends on It Sunday, Sep 29 2019 

By Ben Goldberger —

Voting in Kentucky is Nov. 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Everyone should vote, because to some people, their lives depend on it.

Volunteers have already been asking students if they are registered to vote, and although it can be frustrating, it is necessary.

While nobody likes to be bombarded with questions from a stranger on their way to class, it is so important to know your voting status. 

The issues brought up on the political stage affect everyone, and voting is the way to make voices heard on a national level.

It is easy to dismiss voting with the belief that one vote won’t change the election, but that thought is what causes young voters to not go to the polls. This is an extremely dangerous outlook that ends up hurting the country.

According to the Pew Research Center, it is expected that one in every 10 voters in 2020 will be from Generation Z. Combined with the Millennial vote, youth voters are around 40 percent of the population. 

However, if voters from these generations decide not to vote, older voters will decide the political officials that shape our country. This puts candidates in office that will benefit them instead of the newer generations.

“I think it’s pertinent for young people to vote because we have a unique experience where the policy changes that are made affect us for a long period of time,” senior Cultural Non-Profit Development major Arii Lynton-Smith said.

One of the biggest examples of this is the climate change emergency. This issue is going to affect younger voters for the rest of their lives, but it is not as much of an issue for most older voters. If younger voters and politicians do not get involved, these issues will never be dealt with until it is too late. 

This election, almost all statewide positions are open, meaning the whole political scene in Kentucky can change. Gov. Matt Bevin is up for reelection after being named the country’s least popular state governor this year. Bevin is being challenged by the current Attorney General and son of Bevin’s predecessor, Andy Beshear.

All other major roles in the government are up for election this year as well, so this is the time to utilize your civil right and duty to vote. 

When asked why voting is important to her, Lynton-Smith said, “Just 60 years ago, people that looked like me were bullied and kept out of the polls.”

Voting is not a chore. It’s a privilege.

In such a diverse nation, it is critical for people of all different backgrounds to vote in every election in order to truly represent the ideas and needs of this country.

If nothing else, vote for your peers who cannot. Vote for the students victimized in way too many school shootings whose lives were taken before they had the opportunity to vote. Vote for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of other innocent African-American teenagers who have had their opportunity taken away from them by police officers. 

Vote while you still can, because in this country, you never know when that will be taken away from you. 

Graphic by Alexis Simon / The Louisville Cardinal

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