NewsLEX 18 In-Depth


How will Kentucky voters decide on the two constitutional amendments on the ballot?

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Posted at 7:13 PM, Oct 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-11 19:13:46-04

This November, Kentucky voters will find two constitutional amendments on their ballots.

In terms of voter behavior, what does that mean?

According to Dr. Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, there would normally be "voter roll-off."

"People will show up to vote for the marquee political campaign and they won't actually vote — they'll drop off — by the time they get down to the amendments," said Dr. Stephen Voss.

However, this time, Kentucky may see the opposite.

"Usually, it would be the Senate contest pulling people to the polls and they'd be sticking around for the amendment votes. To a degree, we have the opposite here," said Voss.

That's because Constitutional Amendment 2 — the abortion rights amendment — is something that has received a lot of attention.

Amendment 2 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.

This amendment has received significant attention as supporters and opponents of abortion rights fight for your vote.

"When you get a highly controversial amendment, that actually can bring people who wouldn't have gone out if it were only the democrat versus republican contests to fill offices," explains Voss.

Although Amendment 2 may get more people to the polls, Voss says "it's less obvious whether it's bringing them to the polls to oppose it or to support it."

"Apparently, early numbers have been showing that women have been registering at higher rates than men," Voss added. "But you can't assume that those women are showing up to defeat Amendment 2. You can't really predict peoples' stances on abortion, very easily, by knowing whether they're male or female."

However, Voss believes the fate of Kentucky's Constitutional Amendment 1 may be easier to predict.

Amendment 1 would give state lawmakers more power by allowing the Kentucky General Assembly to call itself into special session and potentially extend regular legislative sessions to end later than they currently do.

Currently, the state constitution mandates that regular sessions end by March 30 in odd-numbered years and by April 15 in even-numbered years. If lawmakers want to pass laws past those deadlines, it needs to happen in a special session. And only a governor can call lawmakers into a special session in Kentucky. The governor also sets the agenda for the special session.

Under the proposed constitutional change, the legislature could be called into a special session "by a joint proclamation of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives." The amendment caps those sessions to a maximum of 12 days per year.

The amendment itself is long and somewhat confusing. Voss believes that will hurt its chances.

"When amendments tend to be confusing or long, we do see some sign that people will vote against them — not on the merits, but because they're suspicious," said Voss. "They haven't figured out what it does and they figure better safe than sorry — vote it down."

Voss adds that Amendment 1 will also suffer because it's on the same ballot as Amendment 2, which has people mobilized.

"It's a lot easier to remember I'm against the changes to the constitution and just vote no-no on both of them than it is to do the work of distinguishing between the two amendments that are very different in what they attempt to accomplish," Voss said.