By Phillip Lentsch–

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes and Rep. John Yarmuth led a student voter registration drive on March 31 in Ekstrom Library.

Grimes and Yarmuth touched on how — a new online voter registration portal that launched two weeks ago — has already had major success in corralling students who are eligible to vote. According to Grimes, more than 12,000 Kentuckians have used the portal to register.

“Kentuckians are realizing just how easy it is to use to register to vote and to update their registration,” said Grimes. “Already we’ve seen more than 500 18-year-olds register for the first time — including many here at U of L — and even a 98-year-old has used the system to update her registration.”

Yarmuth, who represents Louisville in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he hopes Kentuckians will use the online portal and exercise their right to vote on Election Day.

“Giving Kentuckians the ability to register to vote and update their registration online makes it easier for them to be a part of the electoral process and have a say in what they want their government to be,” said Yarmuth. “We need to do all we can to make it easier for voters to exercise their rights and protect the democracy we’re so lucky to have. I’m glad to join Secretary Grimes in promoting to make sure everyone’s voice can be heard.”

Several Central High School students were in attendance at the event and engaged in discussion with both Grimes and Yarmuth on the advantages of voting. Grimes went through the steps of using the website’s registration process with the students, and successfully registered all that were eligible.

Grimes also urged many of the students to keep in mind that 2016 remains a crucial year for American citizens, due to the number of important elections coming up. Kentucky’s primary election is scheduled on May 17, and the general election that will decide the next president is on November 8.

“In the era of texting and tweeting and chatting, they say the young generation is the one that won’t show up,” Grimes said. “But I beg to differ. 2016 is just as important of an election year to each of you kids here as it is to me and Congressman Yarmuth.”

Yarmuth mainly focused on the struggle of increasing participation in American democracy. Like Grimes, he mentioned that voter apathy is a problem all across the country.

“In Kentucky, we elected a governor last year who got 16 percent of registered voters, meaning 84 percent of those eligible didn’t vote,” Yarmuth said. “Now, he (Bevin) feels as though he has a mandate to do whatever he wants. We have to do better in elections so we can hold politicians — myself included — accountable.”

The goal of the voter registration drive was to bring these issues to the forefront. While the event was primarily directed towards high schoolers, many college students — including the new SGA president-elect Aaron Vance — were pleased with the turnout.

“The University of Louisville Student Government and our student organizations work to increase civic participation and student engagement, so online voter registration will be a valuable tool for us,” Vance said. “Having organized voter registration drives and initiatives, I know firsthand how tedious and laborious the paper process can be. helps to alleviate and streamline the process.”

Overall, Grimes felt as though the event went smoothly, and looks to continue touring throughout the state with the same objective. She will visit every public university in Kentucky before the registration deadline on April 18.

“The energy here on campus today was palpable,” Grimes said. “To have a crowd of students become educated on online registration helps us amplify our message: to reach the one-third of Kentuckians that aren’t registered to vote but are eligible.”

Photo by Phillip Lentsch / The Louisville Cardinal