Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Rural Ky. residents stayed away from polls during gubernatorial election, say their vote doesn't count

In Kentucky, where 400,000 residents gained health insurance through the state's expansion of Medicaid under federal health reform, residents—especially in rural areas—showed little interest in the recent gubernatorial election, even though one of the candidates said scaling back Medicaid expansion was one of his top priorities, Ashley Lopez and Ja'Nel Johnson report for WFPL News in Louisville.

Jackson County (Wikipedia map) has one of the state's highest Medicaid enrollment rates, with about 50 percent of the 13,289 residents on Medicaid and 2,000 gaining enrollment through Medicaid expansion, Lopez and Johnson write. The county is also one of the state's poorest, with 34 percent of residents living below the poverty line, compared to 19 percent statewide.

So when Republican candidate Matt Bevin said he would scale back Medicaid expansion and eliminate Kynect—the state-run insurance exchange program—it would seem like Kentuckians might voice their concern at the polls. Not so. Bevin earned 83 percent of the votes in Republican-heavy Jackson County. But that's not the whole story. Only 2,771 of the county's 9,846 registered voters cast a ballot. Similar numbers were seen statewide, with only 30 percent of the state's registered voters casting ballots in the election.

One reason is that rural residents say they feel ignored by politicians, Lopez and Johnson write. When asked why he didn't vote, Chad Tankersaley of Mckee, a town of 800 in Jackson County, told Lopez and Johnson, "I don’t know. I just didn’t. I just got tired of voting. Because it don’t matter. It doesn’t seem like who got in there or who it was or who you vote for—I don’t know, it always ends up with the same result.” Small business owner Stephanie Wilson told Lopez and Johnson, “I feel like . . . and I know this is going to sound terrible, but it’s not going to matter what we think. Our vote doesn’t really count at all.” (Read more)

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