Voter registration deadline looms

It’s a packed ballot for Frankfort voters who must register by Oct. 9

By Ryan Quinn Published:

The deadline for registering to vote in Kentucky for the Nov. 6 general elections is Oct. 9, about a week away.

Voters who live in Frankfort will get to decide on a lot: four city commissioners, mayor, state representative for the 56th or 57th district (depending on voters’ addresses), state senator for the 7th district, U.S. representative for the 6th district, and the president and vice president of the United States.

All voters will also get to cast ballots for or against a proposed Kentucky constitutional amendment that would establish hunting, fishing and harvesting of wildlife as a personal right and a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Depending on their addresses, voters will also cast ballots in several uncontested school board races.

As of Sep. 18, 33,928 people in Franklin County have registered to vote. That’s out of a voting age population of 38,872, according to census data. Debbie Caudle, chief deputy at the Franklin County Clerk’s Office, said there was a 73 percent turnout in the last presidential election year, and she expected voter registration this year to be on par with four years ago.

Here is some information for those who haven’t yet registered:

To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen and Kentucky resident for at least 28 days before Election Day. You must also be at least 18 years old by the general election, not claim the right to vote anywhere outside of Kentucky, not be a convicted felon unless your civil rights have been restored and not be judged “mentally incompetent.”

If you’re a student at Kentucky State University who lives in Frankfort but are from a different state, county or city, you can claim your local address as your permanent residence if you’d like to register to vote here. Of course, that means you can no longer vote at your previous address. Otherwise, students can head home to their precincts or vote absentee.

Irma Johnson, program coordinator in the Office of Regional Stewardship and Public Engagement at KSU, said she knows that some people are unaware there is a cutoff date for registration.

“Some people think they’ve got all the way up to Election Day to register,” she said.

Her office and various other organizations have been registering students and helping them apply for absentee ballots at three places on campus every day since Constitution Day, Sept. 17. Johnson said Constitution Day has been the start of college registration drives at KSU since 2003.

She said 1,000 students registered on campus last year, and out of the 2,700 students at KSU this year, she said she knows all but 300 to 500 have already been registered. She hopes to get that last bunch on Wednesday at a “Voter Jam” event, complete with a DJ, from 3-6 p.m. in the student courtyard. Johnson said all students have to eat, so it’ll be strategically near the cafeteria.

To register, you can fill out a voter registration card application at the Franklin County Clerk’s Office at 315 W. Main St. or print an application at http://elect.ky.gov/registertovote/Pages/default.aspx, fill it out and mail it to the State Board of Elections at 140 Walnut St. Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also register when you are applying for or renewing your driver’s license, and also at locations offering K-TAP, food stamps, Medicaid and WIC. If you are a prospective member of the military, you can register at recruitment offices; if disabled, at state-funded offices serving people with disabilities; and if a high school student or staff member, at your school.

The hard deadline for applying for absentee ballots is Oct. 30 – that means that the applications must be to the Franklin County Clerk’s office by 4:30 p.m. that day. Even if an application is postmarked Oct. 30, it won’t count if it doesn’t make it in by 4:30 p.m. Caudle said she will send workers down to the post office several times that day to check for applications.

To be eligible to vote absentee – which can be done through the mail or at machines in the county clerk’s office – you must first be registered to vote and must also be elderly, disabled, sick, in the military, a dependent of a member of the military, overseas, a student temporarily living outside the county, a voter temporarily living outside of Kentucky, incarcerated but not yet convicted of a crime, or working outside the county during all hours the polls are open. Those hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Caudle said 44 have already voted absentee at the machines in the office. She said most were “snowbird” residents who would be in warmer states during the election.

She said 88 absentee ballots had already been sent out, 25 of which were for military and overseas citizens. She expected students to begin voting absentee soon.

For out-of-state students, at least, the choice to vote either in one’s home state or at a college address can be a politically strategic one, considering how the Electoral College affects the presidential race. Kentucky is very likely to go to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, and student votes are not likely to sway that outcome. So, many out-of-state students – especially from Ohio, the Holy Grail of swing states that many analysts say Romney must win to capture the national election – may choose to vote absentee or drive home to vote.

While Johnson said she is ethically barred from giving advice to student voters, she said it seems many Ohioans at KSU already know the political power of their home addresses. That, and many of their parents have warned them to not register in Kentucky, she said.

“Let me just put it like this: I’ve registered very few people from Ohio,” she said.

For those voting in Kentucky, make sure you have a photo identification with a signature on it because the state generally requires one to vote. This means driver’s licenses are acceptable. There are a few exceptions to the photo identification rule: You can vote with a Social Security card or a credit card, neither of which have photos, or a precinct worker who knows you can vouch for your identity.

If you don’t have an identification and can’t get one on Election Day, you can cast a provisional ballot that may be counted later, but Caudle said it is unlikely it will be. She said lack of identification is usually not a problem.

“Ninety percent of our voters have photo IDs when they come in,” she said.

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