Louisville’s latest rising political star – DAWN ELLIOTT – is not only urging Louisvillians to come out and vote on NOVEMBER 3, 2015 but she’s also reminding voters to TURN OVER THE BALLOT.
Statistics show that voters typically enter the voting booth and fill out the spaces on the front of their ballot without realizing that there are judiciary races on the back of the card. This election – Dawn Elliott happens to be the first name listed ON THE BACK OF THE BALLOT.
Attorney Dawn Renae Elliott is running in the current election for a District Court Judge seat. What makes this seat so important is that of the 17 elected District Court Judges that are currently on the bench in Jefferson County – only one of them is African-American.
Elliott is a product of Louisville’s predominately black West-End but was primarily raised in the East-End. She is a graduate of Eastern High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law.
Elliott feels as though she is the perfect candidate for District Court Judge because like many defendants that appear in front of the bench – she knows all too well what the word “struggle” means. For four years the single-mom worked a full-time job as a receptionist and paralegal at the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office while attending college during the evening. Experiencing that struggle made Elliott want to help other people who found themselves in unfortunate situations.
“I JUST HAVE THIS NEED TO HELP PEOPLE AND I BELIEVE THAT I CAN DO THAT MOST EFFECTIVELY FROM THE BENCH – IF I CAN REACH ONE PERSON – IF I CAN SAY SOMETHING THAT CAN INSPIRE JUST ONE PERSON TO TURN THEIR LIFE AROUND AND TO DO BETTER – NOT FOR ME BUT FOR THEMSELVES – THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO DO.” – DAWN ELLIOTT
Prior to becoming a District Court Judge candidate – Elliott has practiced as an attorney for the past seven years. She’s represented clients in Civil Rights Litigation, Personal Injury, Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense, Family Law, Discrimination, Workmen’s Compensation and Employment cases.
“WITH EACH EXPERIENCE THAT I HAD WITH DIFFERENT MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY OF DIFFERENT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BACKGROUNDS AND THE ISSUES THAT THEY FACE – THE MORE INTERESTED I BECAME IN ALL THESE OTHER AREAS OF LAW. I SAW THAT I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO HELP PEOPLE AND I’VE BEEN ABLE TO EXPAND MY PRACTICE IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE THOSE PEOPLE.” -DAWN ELLIOTT
The campaign trail has been challenging yet educational for Elliott. She and former Louisville Metro Councilwoman Denise Bentley have spend countless hours canvassing neighborhoods throughout Louisville – knocking on doors and personally meeting residents. One of the most discouraging lessons she’s learned is that within the African-American community of Louisville there is a culture of NOT VOTING.
“FROM THE TIME THAT I COULD READ IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR MY FATHER TO KNOW THAT I KNEW THE IMPORTANCE OF VOTING… I’VE COME IN CONTACT WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT THEY DON’T VOTE – WHEN I ASK WHY – THE RESPONSE IS THAT THEIR VOTE DOESN’T MATTER. TO ME VOTING IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE AS AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN THERE ARE SO MANY OF US THAT DIED SO THAT I COULD GET UP ON THAT TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER AND GO CAST MY VOTE. I FEEL LIKE IF I DON’T DO THAT – IT IS SHOWING SOME LEVEL OF DISRESPECT AND THAT THEIR LIVES DIDN’T MEAN ANYTHING – GOING THROUGH THE DATABASES – A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT VOTED FOR BARACK OBAMA IN 2008 AND 2012 DIDN’T VOTE BEFORE THEN AND HAVEN’T VOTED SINCE – BUT LOOK WHAT YOUR VOTE DID.”- DAWN ELLIOTT
Elliott and Bentley have discovered many issues along the campaign trial that may contribute to the culture of African-Americans not voting in Louisville. Many residents within Louisville’s predominately black West-End have expressed to them that political candidates don’t generally visit their neighborhoods. Most likely – the only encounter that African-Americans in this area have with political candidates is when they view their campaign ads on television.
“I’VE HAD PEOPLE SAY – ‘I’VE LIVED IN THIS HOUSE FOR 20 YEARS AND YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON THAT’S EVER COME THROUGH HERE AND ASKED FOR A VOTE’. I’VE HAD OTHER PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY ARE GOING TO VOTE FOR ME JUST BECAUSE I CAME TO THEIR HOUSE.” – DAWN ELLIOTT
There are other issues that plaque the West End such as voting assignments. Elliott and Bentley have discovered that voters that live in the same neighborhoods are often assigned to different voting precincts. In some cases – residents are assigned to vote at the public school directly across from their homes but their next door neighbor may be assigned to vote at a precinct that is 4 to 5 miles away. For senior citizens that no longer drive or people who suffer from poverty and don’t own a vehicle – these assignments could prevent them from voting.
Elliott and Bentley also stress the importance of voter education. Potential voters needed to be registered by October 13th to vote in the upcoming election. Voters should always come to the precinct with a state-issued picture I.D. and their voters registration card. If a person hasn’t voted in the past five (5) years they may need to check their status before coming to the polls because the state may have purged their name from the registration list. A 17 year-old is eligible to register to vote as long as they will be 18 years of age by the upcoming general election date.
“THE PROBLEM IS THAT WE GO INTO THE BOOTH UNIFORMED. LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT LAST ELECTION CYCLE – EVERY JUDGE WAS UP FOR RE-ELECTION SO THE BACK OF THE BALLOT WAS VERY HEAVY. THERE WERE AROUND 250,000 VOTES CAST ON THE FRONT OF THE BALLOT BUT 100,000 LESS TURNED OVER THEIR BALLOT AND VOTED IN THE JUDICIAL RACES. A LOT OF TIMES WE DON’T KNOW TO TURN OVER OUR BALLOT. HER [DAWN ELLIOTT] RACE IS ON THE BACK SO WE’RE SPENDING A LOT OF TIME AND A LOT OF ENERGY INFORMING AFRICAN-AMERICANS TO PLEASE TURN OVER THEIR BALLOT.” DENISE BENTLEY
District Court Judges are elected every four (4) years and this election it is the only race on the back of the ballot. Of the 21 candidates listed – Dawn Elliott is at the top of the ballot. She urges all registered residents of Louisville to come out and vote because every vote does make a difference. Elliott feels that it’s extremely important that African-Americans vote due to the current disproportion of black judges based on Louisville’s African-American population.
“THE BENCH NEEDS DIVERSITY. DO WE NEED MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR IN DISTRICT COURT? YES. BUT WE ALSO NEED MORE PEOPLE THAT ARE EXPERIENCED IN DIFFERENT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BACKGROUNDS. A LOT OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ON THE BENCH ARE FORMER PROSECUTORS. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ELECT A PROSECUTOR TO BE A JUDGE? NOW YOU HAVE A PROSECUTOR WITH A ROBE ON. THEY CAN’T HELP IT BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN DOING THAT JOB FOR SO LONG AND IT’S KIND OF HARD FOR THEM TO CHANGE THEIR WAY OF THINKING. THAT’S KIND OF A DANGEROUS SPOT FOR OUR COMMUNITY TO BE IN BECAUSE IT GIVES OUR COMMUNITY THE NOTION THAT THEY MAY NOT GET A FAIR OPPORTUNITY WHEN THEY COME IN SOME OF THESE COURTROOMS.” – DAWN ELLIOTT
ACCESS THE DAWN ELLIOTT FOR JUDGE WEBSITE BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
FOR VOTING RULES, REGISTRATION & INFORMATION ACCESS THE KENTUCKY STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS WEBSITE BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
***DON’T FORGET TO TURN OVER THE BALLOT***