University professors discuss low voter turnout

Haley Russell
Assistant News Editor

Olivia Medovich
Staff Writer

The gubernatorial elections held on Tuesday had only a 27 percent voter turnout compared to 37 percent turnout in the 2007 race.

James Clinger, professor of political science, said voters expected Gov. Beshear to win by a large margin.

“Expectancy can discourage voter turn out,” Clinger said. “There wasn’t a lot of effort by many groups or individuals to discuss the issues and get voters to the polls.”

He said other than preliminary discussions involving tax codes; Beshear’s policies are likely to carry over from his previous term.

“I don’t think Gov. Beshear has any dramatic changes in policy planned,” he said. “But I don’t know that the election had much impact on that. I think Gov. Beshear will continue what he has been doing.”

Because of the lack of support from the Republican Tea Party, and the partisan nature of his campaign, Clinger said he thought Williams’ had a difficult time in the racer.

“He has not been a candidate that has appealed to Republicans and Democrats together,” he said.

Without the Tea Party’s support and the divided Republican Party, Clinger said, he could not count on the conservative vote.

Clinger said it is imperative for students to vote so that officials do not undermine their significance.

“If students do not go out and vote elected officials elected officials will start to ignore them, take them for granted and not consider their views to be much of importance in gaining or retaining office,” he said.

One trend, Clinger said he sees in this term’s elected officials is the possible advancement of their respective political careers.

“I think if there is going to be some innovation it will be new things being done by the Attorney General (Jack Conway),”he said. “He clearly is someone who is ambitious and looks like he wants to run again and maybe run for governor…He maybe doing things to make a name for himself to advance his political career.”

It is a common trend in Kentucky for the Attorney General to run for governor.

Overall, Clinger said he thought the election was benign.

“I didn’t see many yard signs or bumper stickers prior to the election. It seemed like the election came and went without a lot of people noticing,” Clinger said.

Martin Battle, professor of political science, said he also believes the voter turnout was a direct reflection of the governor’s popularity.

“As political scientists we know people are likely to turn out when there is a competitive race,” Battle said.

Another factor, he said, is the nature of local elections and the lack of the public knowledge.

“A lot of Americans are only going to vote on national issues, they don’t understand what’s going on locally,” he said. “It is very difficult to understand local politics. It’s very complicated and too much information for people to make good choices.”

Battle said voters tend to make local decisions with national issues in mind.

“We shouldn’t just be voting for who we don’t want as president,” he said. “If we want the person who is best for Kentucky do we want people to be voting on national issues or state issues?”