UK Ford Lecture to Focus on Voting Rights and the Elusive Search for Bipartisanship

2021 Ford Lecture

By Martin School Report and Danielle Donham Monday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2021) — Voting rights and the elusive search for bipartisanship will be the subject of the University of Kentucky’s annual Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Lecture from 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12. 

The program is hosted by the UK Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and co-sponsored by the Henry Clay Center and Commerce Lexington. This year’s lecture will be a webinar rather than an in-person event due to continuing concerns over COVID-19.

The lecture is free and open to UK students, faculty, staff and the public. Advance registration is requested. Click here to register: https://martin.uky.edu/2021fordlecture

The program will include a look at voting rights nationally by veteran Washington political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, founder of the Rothenberg Political Report (now known as Inside Elections) and current columnist for CQ-Roll Call. His presentation will be followed by a panel featuring Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds and UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law professor and election expert Joshua Douglas. They will discuss how Kentucky, unlike many other states, was able to find consensus on voting rights expansion. 

The event’s host and moderator will be Renee Shaw, Kentucky Educational Television’s director of public affairs.

“Throughout the year the issue of voting rights has been front and center in public policy debates from Washington to state capitals across the country,” said Ron Zimmer, the director of the Martin School. “According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, so far this year at least 18 states have enacted laws affecting voter access.”

"Meanwhile in Washington, the House of Representatives has passed two separate voting rights bills, but both are currently on hold in the Senate due to differences between Republicans and Democrats as to how they view the issue,” Zimmer added. “Our program will focus on why the subject of voting rights has become so divisive and will also feature an in-depth analysis of how Kentucky was able to overcome political differences and expand voter access.”

This year marks the eighth year of the Ford Lecture Series, named for the late former Kentucky governor and four-term U.S. senator and senate Democratic whip. Ford played a key role on voting rights issues during his Senate tenure. One of his legislative legacies was the Wendell H. Ford Motor Voter Act, which passed in 1993 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Under the bill, states for the first time ever were required to allow individuals the opportunity to register by mail when they applied for driver’s licenses or public assistance, or at military recruitment offices. The law is still in effect today.