Christian County Elections Coordinator Melinda Humphries has worked on local elections for 20 years, and every season, she said the idea of Hopkinsville switching to nonpartisan elections is a hot topic.
“It can be done, it’s just going to take a lot of convincing,” she said of residents understanding the process. “People just need to see it on paper.”
Hopkinsville City Council will have the first reading of its nonpartisan elections ordinance at Tuesday’s special-called meeting.
Councilman Terry Parker proposed that Hopkinsville City Council elections become nonpartisan while keeping the 12 wards in place for primary elections. That means only residents of that ward would be able to vote for their council member in May. The voters’ party affiliation would not hinder them from voting for a candidate, and the candidate’s party would not be on the ballot either.
The two candidates with the highest number of votes in each ward would be on the General Election ballot for that ward, instead of each top Democrat and Republican candidate.
Humphries said Oak Grove, Pembroke, LaFayette and Crofton already have nonpartisan elections. The difference is there are no ward designations on the ballot. Candidates for those primary elections have until June 2 to file this year, as the primary is set for June 23.
Registered independent candidates for Hopkinsville’s primary can also file until June 2, Humphries noted.
Although city council could vote to pass the nonpartisan ordinance Tuesday, it wouldn’t go into affect until the 2022 election, she noted.
The candidates have already filed with their parties, which will be listed on the June and November ballots. Then those candidates would serve two-year terms.
Humphries said there are few cities with partisan elections still left in the state. According to the Kentucky League of Cities, Hopkinsville is one of seven Kentucky cities still holding partisan elections. Madisonville also holds partisan elections.
“It goes down every few years,” she said.
Although Humphries can’t take a stance on the matter, she said she understands the concerns from both sides.
“I know that they want representation across the board,” she said. “I think they want to make sure they have representation throughout the city.”
Humphries said in cities without ward-designated primaries, like Oak Grove, it’s possible for the entire council to be from one area of town.
Keeping the wards in place, like Parker proposed, would squash that concern.
As far as voter turnout and minority representation in elections, Humphries was unsure of how switching to nonpartisan elections would affect those. She noted that school board and local judges elections are already nonpartisan.
She also said the biggest affect on voter turnout is what’s on the ballot each year.
“That always brings in people,” she said. “The year the mayor runs, you can see it increase turnout. The less that’s on the ballot it seems the less people come out.”
As for this year’s election, Humphries said she hopes people utilize every option to cast their ballot, whether they choose to receive a mail-in absentee ballot or go to the limited in-person voting at precincts June 23.
“Our primaries are always slower,” she said. “You would think because we have a presidential election, more people would come out.”
Hopkinsville will also be voting for a mayoral candidate to finish out the rest of resigned Mayor Carter Hendricks’ term. Interim Mayor Wendell Lynch will serve until December, when a new mayor is elected. Lynch has not confirmed if he will run.
“I don’t know how we get them to the polls to vote that day,” she said of this year’s election. “That’s what you always strive for as the election coordinator. You’ve got to encourage them to exercise their right. It’s a choice. It’s not something that you have to do. But now they can vote in the comfort of their home in their pajamas.”
The voter registration deadline this year is 4 p.m. May 26. To register online, visit govoteky.com.
The State Board of Elections is mailing instructions on how to mail in an absentee ballot this year due to COVID-19. For more information, call the Christian County Clerk’s Office at 270-887-4107.