City to offer free Election Day rides

At the request of the Go Vote campaign, a collaborative effort between the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Young Professionals and Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center, the city of Owensboro will waive public transit fees for Election Day on Nov. 6.

According to City Manager Nate Pagan, Transit Department buses will run their regular routes on that day, but all rides will be free of charge during regular hours, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. This is the first time in modern history the city has provided free rides on Election Day.

“The staff has no concerns with this,” Pagan said. “The cost will be minimal, and considering the commitment to democracy, we think it’s a good idea.”

The organizations involved in Go Vote this year are tackling different projects aimed at ensuring eligible voters are registered and that they turn out for the general election. Chamber President and CEO Candance Brake said the Go Vote concept is not about any one candidate or political party, it’s about exercising every citizen’s democratic rights.

“One of the best indicators of a healthy community is broad civic engagement,” she said. “And one of the primary ways to be engaged is to vote. It’s part of the very foundation of who we are as Americans. Our campaign is something everyone can get behind. We’re trying to involve as many people as we can, and the only candidate we’re endorsing is Owensboro.”

Chamber staff and volunteers are encouraging members to incentivize voting by offering discounts or deals to customers wearing “I voted” stickers. Brake said she is also trying to advocate on behalf of the 20,000 chamber-affiliated employees to make sure they are provided an opportunity to vote as well.

Both the chamber of commerce and Chamber Young Professionals are helping promote a social media blitz that will ramp up the week before the election. CYP Past-Chair Andrew Howard formally asked the city to consider a revised Election Day bus fare policy during a commission meeting earlier this week. Local races, in particular, he said, have the greatest impact on people’s lives, and giving all voters an equal opportunity to vote is one step toward breaking down voter participation barriers.

Young people have been especially critical in promoting this year’s Go Vote campaign, Howard added. High school-aged students in the Wendell H. Ford Statesmanship Academy have participated in lectures and are working to spread the word about voter canvassing among newly eligible voters.

Some government education center students who aren’t even old enough to vote in this election have fully invested in the cause. Savannah Gatton, 17, a senior at Owensboro High School, is interning with the chamber this year and participating in the Statesmanship Academy senior class. Even though she won’t have the opportunity to cast her vote on Nov. 6, she said it’s more important than ever that those adults who can vote do so.