Interim Joint Committee on State Government

 

Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Task Force

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 3rd Meeting

Of the 2001 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> November 20, 2001

 

The<MeetNo2> 3rd meeting of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Task Force of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on<Day> Tuesday,<MeetMDY2> November 20, 2001, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Kerr, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Alice Kerr, Co-Chair; Senators Ed Miller, Albert Robinson, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Woody Allen, James Bruce, Perry Clark, James Comer, Joseph Fischer, Charlie Hoffman, and Gross Lindsay.

 

Guests:  Sarah Jackson, Rosemary Center, and Steve Smith, Kentucky Registry of Election Finance; John Y. Brown, III, Secretary of State; and Don Blevins, Kentucky County Clerks' Association.

 

LRC Staff:  Laura Hendrix, Melissa Bybee, and Terisa Roland.

 

Senator Kerr asked for approval of the October 16, 2001 meeting. Senator Kerr then asked Laura Hendrix, Committee Staff Administrator of the committee, to provide an overview of laws as compared to report of Kentucky Election Practices. She took no position on the merits as to the laws of any proposals.

 

Ms. Hendrix's report contained suggested state actions as recommended by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL does not say what each individual state should or should not do in the area of elections due to individuality of each state. Last week a new bill was introduced in Congress which may provide grant money to states, the "Help America Vote Act of 2001."

 

Ms. Hendrix listed NCSL 10 major areas of concern, which run the gamut from voter rights/responsibilities to election workers to voter education, which are compared to  Kentucky's status on these issues. The top 10 issues are:

 

(1)              Provide voter rights and responsibilities. In Kentucky, the State Board of Elections makes announcements regarding the importance of voting, and signs are required to be posted displaying phone number and mailing address of County Board of Election so that irregularities can be reported.

(2)              Collect and archive election data, examine the time frames for election, establish guidelines for adequate number of polling places, and prohibit campaigning in partisan elections other than the elections official's own election. Kentucky has strict electioneering laws and training on those laws for elections officials. Kentucky also reviews precincts with more than 700 votes cast, and has reduced the number of elections.

(3)              Statewide, voter electronic registration system. Kentucky is cited as a good model for a statewide online voter registration system.

(4)              Uniform method for casting provisional ballots. Kentucky does not use provisional ballots, but has a mechanism for using an affidant

(5)              Provide convenient locations for absentee and early voting, create permanent absentee voting status and extend time periods for voting. In the 2000 election, 21% of the votes cast in Kentucky were from absentee ballots, and Kentucky limits absentee ballots because of fraud concerns.

(6)              Equal voter assistance and polling place accessibility. Kentucky provides assistance and is conducting an accessibility survey.

(7)              Uniform standards for voting systems. Kentucky approves voting systems for use, and electronic systems shall meet Federal Election Commission Standards. Kentucky was citied in 2000 as a state that had progressed to electronic voting systems. Kentucky does not have a statutory definition of a vote, nor does the state approve ballot design. NCSL recommended having a vote by mail, however, there are fraud concerns with this method in Kentucky.

(8)              Uniform post-election procedures. This is the area in which Kentucky has the most in common with other states. The recounting and contest of votes is a judicial procedure, and there is considerable leeway for the courts to decide what is, in fact, a vote. Kentucky's laws are not clear on many of the procedures.

(9)              Recruitment and training of election day workers. Kentucky requires residency of election workers, training for workers, and nomination by parties. Kentucky pays a minimum of $10 for training and $60 for election pay, and counties can pay more.

(10)         Voter Education. Kentucky permits children to enter the voting booth with parents, provides for mock elections, requires dissemination of sample ballot before election. Kentucky also has a comprehensive election website.

 

Representative Fischer asked about requirements to help states qualify for grant money in Help America Vote Act, which was announced last week. Ms. Hendrix said that the legislation would require states to adopt minimum standards for state election systems that would be monitored by a new federal commission. In order to get funds, the law would require a statewide voter registration system that is linked to local jurisdictions, as well as a system for maintaining accuracy of voter registration records, uniform standards for what constitutes a vote on the different types of voting equipment, and ways to ensure that absent and uniformed or overseas voters have their votes counted.

 

Representative Allen asked if it would be necessary for every polling place to have someone that could speak different languages in an effort to assist voters. Ms. Hendrix said that would be an implementation question that the State Board would have to address.

 

Senator Kerr said the next item on the agenda was the discussion of Blevins vs. Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Recently the Kentucky Supreme Court decided a case that held KRS 121.310 unconstitutional as applied, which is a statute dealing with courcion of employees' votes.

 

Rosemary Center, Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said the way the statute is written; it appears that it applies to every employer. The court determined that there must be actual coercion of the vote, and not a mere request for support.

 

Representative Lindsay stated there is a legitimate distinction between a public employee and an employee in the private sector and asked if the statute could be re-written in such a way to make it constitutional. Ms. Center agreed that further study would be necessary on the drafting of a possible amendment.

 

Senator Kerr said electronic filing and disclosure of campaign finance information is a topic that many states are dealing with. In 2000 session, Representative Bob Helringer sponsored HB 939 which passed the General Assembly, which established a system of voluntary electronic filing. The Registry has been working on this system as well as working on placing a great deal of their information about candidate financial information on their website. Steve Smith of the Registry gave information and a demonstration of the filing system.

 

Ms. Jackson brought to the Task Force's attention the upcoming election finance training seminars. The seminars are designed for 50-75 people. The first seminar was conducted in Louisville last week. A seminar is scheduled for an evening in January in the Capitol Annex in Frankfort for those wishing to attend.

 

Ms. Jackson stated that 00RS HB 939 was passed almost unanimously by both Houses. The original bill made electronic filing mandatory for certain filers. However in the final version of HB 939, the system was made entirely voluntary. There are two main parts of HB 939, which are the electronic filing of campaign finance reports and disclosure. Electronic filing of campaign finance reports is voluntary. This bill also requires, for the first time, the Registry to provide software free of charge to any candidate wishing to use it. It also allows the candidate to use software other than that provided and paid for as long as it meets the system's specifications.

 

The agency is also required by this bill to create a searchable database of campaign finance information, to be available over the Internet, in a format to allow the public to browse, search, and download the data. The provisions of HB 939 are to be in place by January 2002.

 

Representative Bruce asked if it was allowable to use campaign funds to buy a computer and the software if you do not have one. Ms. Jackson replied that this was permissible as long as the computer/software was used for the campaign. Currently, people are spending $100 for the software, and she was sure they were allocating that as a campaign expense.

 

Mr. Smith spoke on how a campaign finance report could be delivered to the Registry and gave a demonstration on the registry's on-line searchable database which, is currently in development and should be operational on January 1, 2002. The software will produce a hard copy report as well as an electronic file. Both those reports are required to be sent to the registry. The filer will have the option of filing the report on the Internet as well as sending the report through the mail or hand delivering the report in person.

 

Candidates filing over the Internet will receive a message stating the acceptance or rejection of their report. Electronic files are uploaded each night. Those reports filed by means other than the electronic-filing system will have to be manually keyed in by the registry staff. Once that information is loaded onto the online database, the public will have a user friendly disclosure system that will be used by candidates, the media and the general public.

 

Representative Fischer said one of the impediments to electronic filing would be the immediate availability of data from those filing by use of the software as compared to those opting not to e-file, and he asked for suggestions to rectify that situation. Ms. Jackson said that is an important issue with the e-filing of campaign finance data. Almost universally, the answer from states to this situation was to not hold back information. Representative Fischer felt that in competitive races, there would be resistance to electronic filing. The other point of resistance would be that electronic filing, if data is falsely reported, would subject that filer to federal liability whereas, if the candidate hand-delivered it, he would not be subjected to that kind of exposure. Mr. Smith said the candidate has the option to file either electronically, by hand-delivery, or by mail. Ms. Jackson spoke of the legal ramifications of sending it over the Internet or by mail, which is why it is entirely optional as to how data is filed. She felt that as more candidates opted to file electronically, the issue would be resolved.

 

Senator Kerr stated that the next topic was to discuss ideas for encouraging more people to become election workers, including having some 16 and 17 year olds as poll workers. Due to current law, only 17 year olds who will attain the age of 18 at the time of the election may become election workers. There was some interest by the committee in having a bill introduced to encourage these young people to sign up to be election workers.

 

Secretary of State John Y. Brown III said electronic filing should be mandatory for any candidate who raises up to or over $100,000, and he thinks mandatory electronic filing is important.

 

Secretary Brown said a fall back procedure to address the problem of adequate poll workers is to treat poll workers much like jury workers, where you have a pool of registered voters from which to select precinct workers. He was interested in having younger people work the polls but did not feel the problems with the present Kentucky law opposing the use of 16 and 17 year olds as election workers could be resolved without constitutional changes. Secretary Brown thought one of the resolutions to this problem would be to increase poll worker pay as the current pay is under the minimum wage.

 

Don Blevins, Fayette County Clerk, said the Kentucky County Clerks' Association was not in favor of letting people less than 18 years of age serve as poll workers as they do not feel that a 16-year old has the maturity to inform an unregistered adult that they could not vote.

 

Senator Tori asked when the last upward adjustment took place for poll workers' pay. Mr. Blevins responded that pay adjustment for poll workers took place in 1994 when it was raised from $35 to $50. Secretary Brown added that some counties are currently paying their poll workers $100 per day, which is above minimum wage.

 

Representative Hoffman inquired as to the possibility of breaking up the election workers' days into an eight-hour shift and a six-hour shift. Mr. Blevins responded that could be done by changing the law, however, he doubted that would work due to the problem of having to acquire more election workers, and it would also present a problem as far as maintaining the integrity of the election process. He stated that, presently, if there is a problem, you know who was present at the precinct, but if the voting day were divided into shifts, it would be hard to know whom to hold accountable.

 

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 3:15 PM.