May 24, 2024 8:00am

Most Power Poll members would let independents vote in primary elections

They also opposed the state attorney general's litigation against environmental regulations, and they support a ban on kitten and puppy sales in Lexington pet stores

Photo of Tom Eblen
Lexington, KY Correspondent
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A large majority Power Poll Lexington members favor opening Kentucky’s primary election system to allow registered independents to choose a primary in which to vote.

Most Power Poll members disagree with a move by Kentucky’s chief law enforcement officer to join 24 other Republican state attorneys general to challenge new federal rules that will reduce water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Poll members also strongly favor a ban on dog and cat sales at Lexington pet shops, which the Urban County Council is now considering. The Council voted 13-1 this month to approve the ordinance, and a final vote will likely come in June. Louisville, Radcliff and Elizabethtown are among 492 cities across the country that already have similar ordinances.

Under Kentucky’s current election laws, only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in their party’s primary elections.

But Secretary of State Michael Adams, an advocate for increased voting access, predicted in an interview with the Kentucky Lantern that could change. “I do think it’s inevitable that we’re going to have open primaries,” he told reporter McKenna Horsley. “I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Adams said the fastest-growing group of voters is registered independents, who can’t vote in primaries. Kentucky voters are now 46 percent registered Republicans, 43 percent Democrats and 10 percent independents (or another political party). He noted that the worst voter turnout is among registered independents.

Adams said he favors a system similar to that in Arizona and New Hampshire, where registered independents choose one party’s ballot or another. Power poll members agree, with 77 percent (148 members) favoring that idea, compared to 18 percent (35 members) against it. Four percent (eight members) had no opinion.

“Forcing people to register as members of a party to be able to vote in a primary, especially before they know who will be running in that party, is undemocratic,” said Al Cross, director emeritus and professor at the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and a longtime political reporter and columnist. “Most people are functionally independents.’

Adams doesn’t favor completely open primaries, which would allow members of one party to influence the other party’s election. Neither does Power Poll member Joe Graviss, a Versailles businessman and former Democratic state representative.

“The concern with open primaries is some independents will vote for the weakest candidate in their minds to give the R or D they like a better chance of winning,” Graviss said. “People could run as independent and have their own primary. What really needs to happen is election finance reform and an end to the Citizens United SCOTUS decision that treats money as speech and corporations as people, thus fueling harmful dark money into our system.”

Attorney General Russell Coleman, a Republican whose election campaign last year focused on opposing the Biden administration, has joined a lawsuit to block stricter air and water pollution regulations, calling it a “package of job-killing energy regulations … would drive up prices on Kentucky families.” The Republican-dominated General Assembly this year appropriated $3 million to Coleman to fund his ligation against federal environmental regulations.

But health and environmental experts say the new rules will reduce air and water pollution. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rules further the Biden administration’s aims “to tackle climate change and to protect all communities from pollution in our air, water, and in our neighborhoods.” The rules especially target coal-fired power plants.

Power Poll members strongly oppose Coleman’s activism here, with 77 percent (148 members) disagreeing with his stand while 14 percent (27 members) agreed with it. Eight percent (16 members) had no opinion.

“Coleman is trying to prove his worthiness to Joe Craft,” Cross said, referring to the billionaire coal magnate who recently hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump in Lexington.

Trump recently offered to roll back dozens of Biden administration environmental regulations in exchange for $1 billion in campaign contributions from energy companies and their executives. That move, which Democrats have equated with soliciting bribes, prompted the Senate finance and budget committees this week to launch an investigationinto Trump’s actions.

“Which is more important: money or clean air and water?” Graviss said. “The people that run these pollution mills have proven they cannot be trusted to serve their customers without excess harm in order to reach their ultimate goal which is to maximize shareholder profit.”

Our last question this month concerns a proposed Lexington ordinance that would ban the sale of puppies and kittens at local pet stores. If passed, people would have to acquire new pets at animal shelters or directly through breeders.

Some animal advocates say the ordinance is necessary because of mass commercial “puppy mill” breeders who abuse their animals for profit. But some pet stores say the ban would hurt their businesses; they say they do not deal with “puppy mills” and ensure the health of young animals they sell.

Power Poll members strongly support the proposed ordinance, by a margin of 60 percent (114 members) to 21 percent (40 members). Nineteen percent (37 members) had no opinion.

“Kentucky is in crisis mode with the number of unwanted and dumped animals,” said Karen Hendren, a communications executive with Toyota. “Dogs and puppies are on the roads starving, running in packs and being hit by cars. … Stopping the sale of puppy mill pets in pet stores is a first step. It needs to be taken.”

Cross added: “I’m not sure an ordinance in one county will make much difference but it’s worth a try.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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