On a September afternoon at Western Kentucky University, pop culture mingled with politics during a Rock the Vote registration drive. A recording of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” was playing in the background as Jeb Veeck and College Republicans occupied an information desk on campus.
“Are you considering joining the college Republicans?” He asked a student.
As a Republican, Veeck has plenty of company. In Kentucky, the GOP has outstripped the Democratic Party in terms of new voters for many years.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says political affiliation is beginning to adapt to the changing political landscape in the bluegrass state.
“We now obviously have a legislature that is fully Republican for the first time,” said Grimes. “The house that used to be controlled by Democrats is now all controlled by Republicans, and what we’re seeing in terms of voter registration.” Statistics.”
Stephen Voss, a University of Kentucky political science professor who specializes in elections and voting behavior, said the registration balance was closer to how Kentuckians voted in national elections.
“A lot of people remain registered Democrats, in part because, even though they voted Republicans, they don’t really identify emotionally with the GOP,” Voss said. “They state that they would like to vote for Democrats if they felt like the Kentucky Democratic Party is offering them someone who is more acceptable, not so much like the national Democratic Party, but more like a more traditional Democrat, who previously dominated the state. “
While there is an ongoing shift towards the GOP in Kentucky, Voss points out that it wasn’t until the last statewide election in 2015 that Republicans made big wins in winning the Constitutional Office.
“Most of the offices were held by Democrats, so given the context in which voters in Kentucky are angry with the National Democratic Party, we know they are ready to elect Democrats to nationwide office,” Voss said. “It was just an election that Republicans waged.” Most of the constitutional offices held them, so they are not really deeply ingrained. “
Voss believes the 2008 election of President Barack Obama accelerated Kentucky’s move towards the GOP. According to the Republican Party, the GOP has won around 400,000 voters since 2008.
However, Voss doubts President Donald Trump is responsible for much of the trend.
“Before he really appeared on the political scene, the shift of registration to Republicans was already strong,” Voss said. “I think building the Kentucky Republican Party was a very long process over a couple of decades.”
According to the State Department, the state had 3,259,257 registered voters as of August. Democrats had 1,597,244 registered voters. Republicans had 1,382,874. While the Democrats outperformed Republicans by more than 214,000, those registration numbers don’t necessarily help predict election results.
Secretary of State Grimes says more and more Kentucky voters are registering as independent. In addition, many who are registered will not show up at the voting booth. Grimes points out that just over 30 percent of registered voters were in attendance on election day in 2015.
“For what that meant on election night, the current governor won his election when just over 16 percent of eligible Kentuckians actually voted,” Grimes said. “We can and should do better.”
The first step in voting is registration. The deadline ends on Monday, October 7th at 4:00 p.m. local time in the district clerk’s offices or online. This date is also the deadline for party membership changes before the November 5th general election.
Given that the State Board of Elections recently marked about 170,000 voters as inactive, Grimes said it was also important for Kentucky voters to check and update their registration.
While Kentucky exceeds the national average for registered voters, about 30 percent of the eligible population remains unregistered.