An 11th-hour effort to increase voter registration got a high-powered assist Monday from the state official who oversees elections.
Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes joined students from Centre College volunteering to sign up voters outside Walmart in Danville. Today is the deadline to register to vote in the November general election.
“From the voter registration efforts to the various rallies geared toward the youth of Kentucky to the forums that are going to be occurring on Centre’s campus targeting our youth, this is an exciting time,” Grimes said of the activity surrounding Thursday’s vice-presidential debate. “Not just for Kentucky’s youngest members of society, but for the entire electorate.”
Patrick Noltemeyer, Centre’s associate dean and director of community service, has spearheaded efforts on campus to increase voter education and participation among students in correlation with the debate.
In addition to setting up tables in the school’s student center, Noltemeyer said volunteers also helped promote TurboVote at the watch party for the first presidential debate last week. Based on submitted information, TurboVote mails someone a voter registration card and an addressed, postage-paid envelope that can be sent directly to the appropriate county clerk after it is signed.
According to Noltemeyer, efforts to get students registered have yielded impressive results, with more than 350 signing up during the recent push by the Student Government Association and the Bonner Scholars. Current total registration among Centre students both locally and in their home voting precincts is approaching 90 percent.
Noltemeyer said setting up at Walmart on a Monday afternoon gave the initiative a chance to reach a wide cross-section of people from not only Boyle but also surrounding counties.
Most of the students who were set up at the main entrances and exits of the retail store said they answered the call for volunteers because of an interest in encouraging voter participation and being a part of the debate-week action. Alex Hurley, a junior from St. Charles, Mo., said he wasn’t sure if he would be able to help out in other ways during debate week and liked the chance to give back.
“I feel like Danville isn’t just where I go to school,” Hurley said. “Centre is a part of Danville, and I wanted to do something for the community around me.”
Grimes will be spending significant time in Danville for events surrounding the debate, which she also plans to attend. She will speak at the Boyle County Courthouse on Wednesday during the Stand Up for Kids Rally and be part of a live Connected Nation forum along with former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson on the day of the debate, which is expected to reach hundreds of students across the country.
Absentee ballots and early voting already have started coming in, but Grimes declined to predict voter turnout until more information is available about the third week in October. In between conversations with Walmart shoppers, Grimes said she was focused on making sure as many people as possible are engaged with the political process.
“Regardless of your age, every vote in every election matters,” she said.