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175,000 voters restored to rolls ahead of Kentucky's November election

The Kentucky Democratic Party won a lawsuit to ensure Kentucky voters can more easily participate on Nov. 5.

By Dan Desai Martin - October 15, 2019
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Matt Bevin
Former Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

The Kentucky Democratic Party won a lawsuit on Monday to restore 175,000 voters from an “inactive” list to the regular rolls.

“We’re very pleased with Judge Wingate’s quick ruling to restore all voters back to a single master voter list and believe this decision was necessary to protect Kentucky voters and ensure the integrity of the 2019 election,” the party’s chair, Ben Self, said in a statement.

The lawsuit stemmed from a decision by the state Board of Elections to place thousands and thousands voters on an inactive list between June and July, just months before the state’s pivotal Nov. 5 election. The BOE argued it was compelled to move voters to an inactive list based on a 2017 federal consent decree to clean up the state’s voter rolls following a lawsuit by a far-right conservative organization.

The Kentucky Democratic Party argued the state was prematurely adding names to an inactive list, which should not happen until 2022, thus making it more difficult for citizens to vote in this November’s election.

Voters on an inactive list would have been able to vote in the 2019 election, but extra steps at the voting location would be required to do so, and Democrats argued this was an unnecessary hurdle.

On Monday, a circuit court judge in Franklin County agreed and ordered all the voters placed on the inactive list to be put back on the master voting list.

“Not every voter has the luxury of waiting for a possible lengthy period of time to jump through unnecessary hoops when the State Board of Elections’ intent can be achieved through simpler, less prejudicial means such as placing an asterisk by the names of the 175,000 individuals on the master voter list and having poll workers confirm each voter’s address,” Wingate, the judge, wrote in his ruling.

“The Kentucky Democratic Party is committed to making sure that while the state is updating the voter rolls the rights of Kentucky voters are protected and all state laws are followed during the process so that voters do not face any unnecessary or unfair burdens at the polls,” Self added after the ruling.

The party affiliation of voters on the inactive list mirrored party registration in the state, which is generally evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, according to Newsweek.

In other states, Republicans have sought to purge voters from the voting rolls as a voter suppression method. In Kentucky, the BOE is made up of both Democrats and Republicans, who moved voters to the inactive list in an effort to abide by the consent decree.

Kentucky voters will head to the polls in November for a key gubernatorial election pitting an unpopular incumbent, Gov. Matt Bevin, against Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. Bevin is the country’s least popular governor and even saw a state senator of his own party turn on him to endorse Beshear. Bevin courted controversy by repeatedly attacking teachers in the state and mocking children for not going to school when temperatures were dangerously low.

“If you have any concerns please login to govoteKY.com to verify your voter information is current and up-to-date, and most importantly remember to vote in the upcoming general election on November 5th,” Jared Dearing, executive director of the Board of Elections, said in a previous statement about the issue.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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