UK students may be driving up early near-campus voter turnout numbers


A voting official with their “I voted” on display. Voters came out early in the morning to vote in the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Newman Center Voting location in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Rick Childress

As of Tuesday morning, some of the near-campus precincts are reporting promising turnout numbers.

Many at the polls are crediting an increase in college-age voter turnout while a contentious national house race and a slew of important local elections have given voters of all ages good reason to turnout en masse.

Kathy Schenck, an election official for the Hollywood precinct which is located inside Maxwell Elementary School, said the precinct had had 135 voters turn out by 9:40 a.m. In last spring’s primary election, the precinct saw 113 voters the whole day. For the 2016 general election, 519 voters turned out. 

By the end of election day, the Hollywood and Aylesford voting precincts, which are both home to a significant number of college-age voters who live in near-campus housing, may have a chance at eclipsing their voting totals from the 2016 general election. 

When asked if younger voters have been turning out, Schenck said that the line for the Aylesford precinct “has been long all morning.” By 9:40 a.m., the precinct had seen 132 voters, compared to 142 the whole day in the spring primary. In the 2016 election, 614 registered voters cast a ballot.

Morgan Smith, an integrated strategic communications senior who voted in the Aylesford precinct, said that she actually switched her voting district from her native Bowling Green so that she could vote in the upcoming Sixth District Congressional race that is hotly contested by Democrat Amy McGrath and Republican Andy Barr.

Smith said that usually she’ll wait up until election day to make a decision on who she’ll vote for, but this year she made a concerted effort to know who she was going to vote for and why. She added that since the 2016 election, many college-age voters are unhappy with the direction of the government and that they are quickly realizing that their votes matter. 

“Get involved,” she said. “Don’t underestimate your impact. Collective action has much more power than we think.” 

Dylan Colli, a recent chemical engineering graduate, said that it’s very important for college voters to vote in this election because that demographic will be dealing with the consequences of this election for the longest. 

“We’re raised in a pretty unique situation,” Colli said. “No generation has had to integrate so much information.”

At the Newman Center voting location that basically sits on UK’s campus, the turnout numbers were also surprisingly high. 

Neal Mize, an election official at the location, said that 77 people had voted by 9 a.m. According to state election statistics, in the spring primary 106 voted for the whole day, and in 2016 voter turnout totaled 353.

Mize said the precinct, which is called Clifton, generally votes Democrat, and is a mix of college-age and older voters. 

Brittany Frasier, who has been voting at the Clifton precinct for four years, said that the longer line at the voting station was “nice to see,” and added that she wished all college-age voters would turn out.

Courtney Waterbury, a graduate student who voted at the Newman Center, said the crowd there was the most she’s seen.

Waterbury said the spring primary was much different, as she said voting officials were happy to see her and greeted her by saying she was “the first person in three hours.”

Ryan Terry, a voter at the Newman Center, said that many people underestimate the importance of local elections, as they don’t realize the immediate impact those offices can have on a community.

The polls close at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening. Check out the Kernel’s coverage of results and reactions this evening.