FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — In August, Kentucky saw nearly ten thousand new additions to the voter rolls. More people also registered to vote before the October 11th deadline, but the state is still tabulating that number.
However, Secretary of State Michael Adams says one thing the state has noticed is a surge in independent voters.
"We tracked this and since the 2020 election, there's been a surge of independent voters — voters who are not Democrats or Republicans by registration. Of those, 45% are young voters — 18 to 29 years old," said Adams.
Independent voters are the fastest-growing voter group in Kentucky, according to Adams.
"The truth is independents are growing four times as fast as Republicans are growing," he said. "[Kentucky is] 45% Democratic, 45% Republican. So those independents are going to be the decision-makers."
What Kentucky does not know is what impact the young independents may have.
"What we're seeing is that young people are increasingly not-joiners. They don't join churches, civic organizations, or political parties even," said Adams. "The big question is: how do they vote? Do they vote at all? And if they do, which way do they vote?"
As far as mid-term elections go, Kentucky typically does not have the strongest voter turnout.
"In a mid-term election in Kentucky, we historically poll just above 40% of the vote," said Adams.
However, in the upcoming election, abortion rights are on the ballot. And earlier this summer, voters in Kansas turned out to defeat their anti-abortion amendment.
"In Kansas of course, we saw turnout really spike in response to the abortion amendment being on their ballot," said Adams. "The big question here is: do we have a similar spike in Kentucky?"
Adams believes there's no clear evidence of that at this time. For example, he points to the difference in money raised in Kansas and Kentucky.
"In Kansas, $22 million was raised and spent," he said. "In Kentucky, only about $2 million has been raised."
According to Kentucky Registry of Finance reports, Protect Kentucky Access raised $1,466,861.17 as of September of this year. Their opponent, Yes For Life, raised $350,070.51.
"The very last thing on the ballot this year is Amendment 2. Does the bottom of the ticket drive the turnout?" asked Adams. "So, far we're not seeing any evidence of that."
What is Amendment 2?
It will determine the future of abortion rights in Kentucky. It asks voters if they want to put this sentence into the state constitution: "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion."
Abortion is currently outlawed in Kentucky under the state's trigger law, which took effect after the United State Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June. However, a lawsuit, which seeks to establish abortion as a state right, is pending in court. So, if voters reject Constitutional Amendment 2, they will keep open the possibility of abortion being established as a state right.
However, if voters approve the amendment, it would eliminate abortion rights from the state's constitution. That would cut off the current legal challenges.