For the ninth straight year, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are partnering with Kentucky’s secretary of state to boost voter registration and turnout.
At the Kentucky State Capitol on Wednesday, nearly 100 high school students representing electric cooperatives across the commonwealth on the Frankfort Youth Tour joined Secretary of State Michael Adams to kick off the 2024 Co-ops Vote campaign. The nonpartisan initiative began in 2016 with the goal of reversing a downward trend in rural voting.
Inspired by the Co-ops Vote message and Adams’ remarks last year, several Frankfort Youth Tour students launched voter registration drives at their high schools, including Central Hardin High School senior Sophia Stover, who in 2023 partnered with Hardin County Clerk Brian D. Smith and Nolin RECC to launch the first county-level “Co-ops Vote” project.
“I implore you to see voting not just as a right, but as a privilege that generations before us fought tirelessly to secure,” Stover addressed the youth tour students. “Let’s honor their sacrifices by actively participating in the democratic process. Our future is in our hands, and it’s up to us to shape it.”
A review of State Board of Elections data in the last ten presidential elections shows Kentucky voter turnout has yet to rebound since a steep decline in voter participation 28 years ago. In 1992, Kentucky reported 73.2% of registered voters cast a ballot in the general election. Just four years later, voter turnout dropped to 59.3%. Despite modest increases in subsequent presidential election cycles, voter turnout dipped even lower, to 59.1% in 2016, then clawed back to 60.3% in 2020.
“Over the past 4 years, our commonwealth has received attention and praise nationally, and even internationally, for how we conduct our elections,” Adams said. “I encourage all Kentucky voters to take advantage of the increased ease in voting, and to be heard.”
Since Adams took office, Kentucky has deleted from voting lists the names of more than 350,000 people who are no longer eligible to vote because they moved out of state, were convicted of a felony, were ruled incompetent or died. Meanwhile, January marked ten consecutive months of voter registration increases.
Kentuckians can connect with elected leaders and candidates and stay informed on issues facing rural Kentucky on RuralPowerKY.com, a grassroots portal that links to Co-ops Vote resources.
“We are grateful to Sec. Adams for his partnership on Co-ops Vote,” said Mallory Wafzig, manager of cooperative outreach for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Like our youth tour program, Co-ops Vote is nonpartisan and does not endorse any candidate. This is all about civic engagement.”
“Because co-ops belong to and are led by the people they serve, our consumer advocacy is personal,” added Joe Arnold, vice-president of the statewide co-op association. “The concerns of our rural communities need the attention that only voter participation can demand.”
The Co-ops Vote initiative includes several programs to connect voters with their elected officials and publicize registration and ballot deadlines through social media and Kentucky Living, the flagship publication of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives. Earlier this month, the magazine distributed more than 500,000 copies of the 2024 Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Legislative Guide.
In addition to helping Sec. Adams launch this year’s Co-ops Vote initiative, the Frankfort Youth Tour students also met with Gov. Andy Beshear and several members of the legislature who are members of the newly formed Rural Electric Cooperative Caucus, including co-chairs Sen. Robin Webb and Rep. Ashley Tackett Lafferty, and Rep. Samara Heavrin.