Kentucky House Approves Early Voting Bill

Mar 15, 2016
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A bill aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky by allowing early voting without an excuse has been passed by the state House despite some lawmakers’ concerns about strapping county clerks with extra costs.

The measure cleared the House on a 57-37 vote Monday. It now goes to the Senate, where it could face an uphill fight. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is a leading supporter of the bill.

The legislation would allow early voting by any Kentucky registered voter at least 12 working days leading up to the Sunday before Election Day. The early voting period would include two Saturdays.

Grimes has said the majority of counties now offer absentee voting on Saturday.

The bill’s opponents said expanded early voting would be a burden for county clerks with small staffs.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

After one more debate among the Republican contenders for president, the postgame conversation was once again dominated by Donald Trump's behavior.

But for once, it was about his good behavior. He did not shout or fulminate, nor did he pout or belittle his opponents or joust with the moderators.

In fact, after an even dozen of these events, all four remaining candidates kept a remarkably even keel at the University of Miami. Their previous two meetings had been rife with personal attacks that, at times, became almost juvenile, but on this night all four seemed intent on elevating the tone and tending to business.

The themes of the night were almost entirely policy oriented, with a few forays into political process and tiffs over who was doing better or more likely to win in November if nominated.

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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had another tense debate Wednesday night in Miami, less than a week before crucial primary contests on March 15.

The latest face-off between the two came as the Vermont senator was riding high from an unexpected victory Tuesday in Michigan. The two clashed over immigration reform, U.S.-Cuba relations and Wall Street policy, and debated their electoral strategy going forward.

Next Tuesday, voters from Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois will cast their ballots.

Here were some of the top moments from the Univision/Washington Post debate broadcast on CNN:

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After four special elections for vacant state House of Representatives seats on Tuesday, the chamber is still controlled by Democrats.

Despite months of Democratic hand wringing, the party easily won elections in the districts around Hopkinsville, Georgetown and South Shore.

Republicans won the special election in Danville.

Democrat Jeff Taylor, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority official chair, won the 8th District, which includes Hopkinsville.

Republican Daniel Elliott, an attorney and vice chairman of Boyle County’s Republican Party, won the 54th District, which includes Danville.

Democrat Chuck Tackett, a former Scott County magistrate, won the 62nd District, which includes Georgetown.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton currently lead the delegate counts for the presidential nomination. But because of the difference in how both parties award their delegates, Clinton's is the more commanding lead.

Tuesday's Democratic contest in Michigan, the biggest prize of the day, is key for Bernie Sanders to show he can turn things around. His campaign has argued that Clinton has ballooned her lead because of black voters in the South.

Now, many of those Southern contests are over (though there is another Tuesday in Mississippi).

But the question remains: Can the Vermont independent senator appeal to Northern black voters? They make up roughly a quarter of Michigan's Democratic electorate. He believes his economic message can resonate with them and working-class whites hurt by trade. Polls, though, have shown the former secretary of state with double-digit leads going into Tuesday.

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Businessman Donald Trump narrowly won Kentucky’s Republican Presidential Contest on Saturday, beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 4 percent statewide.

The caucus was originally designed so Rand Paul could run for the White House and Senate re-election at the same time; of course, after a disappointing national run, Paul dropped out of the presidential race last month.

On Monday, Capitol reporter Ryland Barton talked with Warren County’s GOP Chair Scott Lasley, who helped organize the caucus.

Lasley said despite some concerns from voters about access to polling locations and electioneering, the caucus was “definitely more positive than negative at the end of the day.”

Listen to the interview in the player above.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The outcome of four special elections in Kentucky today could change the political control of the state House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South run by Democrats.

If Republicans win all four elections, they would tie the political makeup of the chamber, where Democrats hold 50 seats and Republicans 46. Democrats have held a majority in the House since 1921.

A Republican sweep would put the party within one vote of controlling both chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

“This would be a fundamental change in the way that Kentucky government operates,” said Al Cross, a Courier-Journal columnist and director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

The elections take place in two districts (near Hopkinsville and South Shore) vacated by lawmakers who Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to new positions. Also at stake are two districts (around Danville and Georgetown) where representatives stepped down after being elected to statewide offices.

The winners of the special elections will start immediately and serve out the last 17 days of the legislative session.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul predicts Saturday’s Republican presidential caucus will help his party in Tuesday’s special state House elections.

Four vacant House seats will be decided. A clean sweep by Republicans would create an even 50-50 split in the chamber.

Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921.

Sen. Paul says Saturday’s caucus gave GOP House candidates an easy way to meet a lot of Republican voters, something the Bowling Green lawmaker believes will pay dividends Tuesday.

"Those candidates stood there and greeted thousands of Republicans. Think how hard it is to go door-to-door and meet Republicans. But what if 2,000 show up and you can sit there and shake their hands, and remind them to turn out three days later?”

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Saturday was the first time Kentucky held a presidential caucus in more than 30 years.

The contest, which New York businessman Donald Trump narrowly won, was designed so Rand Paul could run for Senate and the White House at the same time. But according to state Republican officials, it was also intended to get Kentuckians more excited about the nominating process.

Did it work?

Jefferson County resident Lacy Little caucused at Louisville’s Zachary Taylor Elementary. He was furious about the new format.

“I shouldn’t have to wait in these lines and stuff,” Little said. “I should be able to go to my same poll, my voting post that I do every year, that I’ve done for 30-some years in this neighborhood.”

Reports of long lines and traffic jams across the state helped hype up the caucus on Saturday, but in reality, voter turnout for the election was average at about 18 percent.

The head of the Kentucky Republican Party is calling Saturday’s presidential caucus a “real success," but turnout was only slightly higher at the caucus compared to the last GOP presidential primary. 

Eighteen percent of registered Republicans voted in the presidential caucus, compared to 16 percent in the 2012 primary.   While there were fears the caucus could go un-noticed, Kentucky GOP Executive Director Mike Biagi said he’s proud of the turnout. 

"A hundred counties saw an increase in the number of voters who participated in the caucus compared to the 2012 presidential primary," Biagi told WKU Public Radio.  "In fact, 42 counties increased their participation over 100 percent since 2012."

Biagi says the higher turnout reflects the growth in the state GOP. 

More than 229,000 of the state’s 1.2 million registered Republicans took part in the caucus that made Donald Trump Kentucky’s GOP presidential nominee. 

While many counties reported long lines at their caucus sites, Biagi said the biggest challenge was the number of Democrats and Independents who showed up to vote and were turned away.

Whether or not Kentucky holds another caucus in the 2020 race will be up to party leaders.

J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump split victories on Saturday, with the Texas senator posting big wins in the Kansas and Maine GOP caucuses and the real estate mogul winning the Kentucky caucuses and Louisiana primary.

In the Democratic race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders notched victories in the Kansas and Nebraska caucuses, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Louisiana primary.

Cruz posted impressive margins in both Kansas and Maine, and he beat Trump in the closed caucuses, where only registered Republicans could vote. Trump added last-minute stop in Kansas this morning, canceling a planned appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in favor of a rally in Wichita. But it was Cruz who would win by more than a 2-to-1margin in Kansas. In Maine, he won by 13 points.

Trump had campaigned in Maine this week as well and hoped to have a strong showing, touting his endorsement from Maine Gov. Paul LePage. But Cruz also stumped in the state on Friday, and the more favorable closed GOP caucus format appears to have played to Cruz's strengths.

Rhonda Miller, WKU Public Radio

Donald Trump is adding Kentucky to the list of states in his win column during the 2016 primary season.

Trump won Saturday's presidential caucus in the Bluegrass State with 35.9 percent of vote.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz placed second with 31.6 percent. Trump collected almost 10,000 more votes in Kentucky than Cruz.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was a distant third, with 16.4 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich was fourth, with 14.4 percent.

Both Warren and Daviess counties went for Cruz. He took 34 percent in Warren County, a seven point win over Trump. Cruz took Daviess County by 12 points over Trump. Hardin County Republicans narrowly went for Trump by one percent over Cruz.

Trump won Pulaski County by ten percent.

Long lines formed at caucus sites throughout the state Saturday, as Republicans gathered to choose their presidential pick. An official with the Warren County Republican Party estimated GOP turnout in that county at around 17.5 percent. By comparison, 16.2 percent of Kentucky Republicans participated in the 2012 presidential primary.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Republicans are heading to the polls to participate in Kentucky’s GOP presidential caucus today.

Reports from across the state show bustling crowds in many caucus locations, which are open Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

More than 100 caucus-goers lined up in advance of doors opening at Henry Clay High School in Lexington Saturday morning. Organizers said the crowd has been “larger than expected,” but no official voter turnout number has been tallied.

Lexington attorney Chris Hunt was passing out information supporting candidate Ted Cruz outside of the Lexington caucus site. Hunt said he likes the fact that the caucus is so early in the nominating process.

“It’s always been a little disappointing to me as a Kentuckian that we’ve been so late in the process that a lot of the time, our primary didn’t seem to have as much impact on the election,” he said.

As presidential nominating contests play out around the country, Kentucky Republicans will have their say Saturday.   More than 1.2 million Kentuckians are eligible to vote for the state’s GOP presidential nominee. 

In neighboring Tennessee this week, voters from both parties set an all-combined turnout record.  Turnout projections have been lower in Kentucky where GOP voters will caucus for the first time in more than three decades. 

Ben Mohon will be volunteering at the caucus site in Warren County.  He says he thinks success of the caucus will be measured by more than turnout.

"If people get more involved with the local political scene, or politics in general, and if people come out saying 'I cast my vote for the candidate that's going to do right by me, I think that's a success," Mohon told WKU Public Radio.

Just over 16 percent of Republican voters cast ballots in Kentucky’s 2012 presidential primary. Turnout this year will help determine whether the state holds caucuses in the future.

Statewide voting will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. local time Saturday. Caucus locations and more information is available at the state Republican Party’s website.

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Sen. Rand Paul’s great experiment is finally upon us: the Republican presidential caucus.

On Saturday, Kentucky Republicans will head to the polls to vote in the state party’s presidential nomination contest, determining how the state’s 46 delegates will be split up between five active candidates.

Where to vote

Voters won’t head to their normal precinct locations, instead they’ll head to designated caucus sites that have been determined by the state Republican Party.

Most counties have one caucus site that all county participants will have to travel to. Larger counties will have multiple caucus locations. To participate, voters are required to go to their designated caucus location, which can be found on the state Republican Party’s website.

Carlisle, Elliott, Estill, Harlan, Knott, Livingston, Morgan, Owsley and Trimble counties do not have caucus locations, but residents will be able to participate in adjacent counties.