Kentucky's Democracy Could Use Some Work, Report Says
Kentucky could use a few policy changes when it comes to ensuring a healthy democracy for its residents. That’s what the left-leaning Center for American Progress found in a recent report entitled, “The Health of State Democracies.”
Overall, Kentucky ranked 48 out of 51 states and Washington, D.C. The study assessed the health of states' democracies by focusing on policies such as early voting, voter ID laws, online voter registration, campaign contribution limits and public campaign financing, among other things.
There is one broad category, though, that Kentucky ranked dead last in: representation in state government.
CAP’s Voting Campaign Manager Lauren Harmon several factors contributed to the abysmal rating.
For one, the state has strict disenfranchisement laws for felons in the state, which bars many people from participating in elections.
Then there’s Kentucky’s lack of direct democracy measures, such as a ballot initiative process, which allows citizens to put measures on the ballot. Kentucky has nothing like that in place, but many states do.
Harmon said a citizen referendum process can be an important tool, especially when state legislatures are gridlocked or lackthe political will to tackle important issues.
“Ballot initiative laws are a way for folks to have a safety valve,” she said. “To make sure they can directly impact the status of the laws and potentially even the constitution in their states.”
Ballot initiatives are also known to increase voter turnout, Harmon said.
Also plummeting Kentucky to the bottom is female elected representation and elected representation of communities of color. Where 1 represents appropriate representation, Kentucky scored .33 for female representation and .36 for representation of minorities.
Harmon said a lack of significant representation in state government for minorities and women has also contributed to less political participation.
“We have got to find a way to make people once again invested in their government, invested in these electoral outcomes,” she said.
“One of the ways in which we can do that that is particularly important is by making sure that folks have a government that reflects them and their values and priorities.”
The last factor dragging down the state’s democratic health is districting distortion.
According to the study, congressional districts in Kentucky lean 16.7 percent towards Republicans and the state legislative districts lean 5 percent toward Democrats.