The2nd meeting of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Task Force of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on Tuesday, August 26, 2003, at 1:00 PM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Kerr, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Adrian Arnold, Co-Chair; Senators David K. Karem, Albert Robinson, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Kevin Bratcher, Perry Clark, Joseph Fischer, Mike Harmon, and Charlie Hoffman.
Guests: Mary Sue Helm, Sarah Ball Johnson and Fielding Hodgkin, State Board of Elections; Dr. Rice Leach, Cabinet for Health Services.
LRC Staff: Laura Hendrix, Jim Roberts and Terisa Roland.
Senator Kerr asked for approval of the June 24, 2003 minutes, and they were approved. Senator Kerr said at the June meeting, testimony was heard from the State Board of Elections about delays in receiving death information from the Office of Vital Statistics, which is in the Cabinet for Health Services. At the time the State Board of Elections said that the information was running consistently late. This information is used to update the voter registration lists and to keep them accurate so there is not a possibility of voter fraud.
The Task Force voted at its June meeting to send a letter to the Cabinet for Health Services, urging that the information be expedited. Since the letter was sent, staff received information from the State Board of Elections on the transmission of death information.
Laura Hendrix, Committee Staff Administrator, said information was received from the State Board of Elections as to death reports that were sent from Vital Statistics for deaths from December 1997 to June 2003. Staff took the information from the State Board and broke it down into several charts. The number of deceased voters that were removed from the voting rolls according to the State Board of Elections was a total of 109,510 persons for the years of death from December, 1997 to June, 2003 and the average per month was 1,634. However, in this period of time, there were about 50,000 voters who remarried on the voting rolls after their month of death, during an election.
Mary Sue Helm gave an overview of the voter registration lists update process, which has changed significantly with the passage of the Federal Motor Voter Act and there are many more requirements at this level now.
Fielding Hodgkin, State Board of Elections, gave a brief overview of the statewide voter registration database in Kentucky. Kentucky has an online voter registration system where by all county clerks are connected to the state mainframe. The system is updated on a daily basis. With regard to how deceased voters are removed, once the data is received from Vital Statistics the job is scheduled to run within 24 to 48 hours of receipt of the information. The database matches social security number, date of birth and the last name for each of their records. When that criteria is met, the voter is removed from the active voting rolls, and a report is written reflecting why the person was deleted. This record is sent back to each county for them to be able to pull their voter registration card out of their active files, and a no-match listing is created. If the criteria for an automatic deletion is not met, they still produce a no-match listing, and the State Board personnel manually try to determine whether that person needs to be removed from the rolls.
Ms. Helm then gave an overview of how other voters are removed. Deceased registrants and convicted felons are removed based on information received from Vital Statistics, convicted felons are removed on information received from the Administrative Office of the Courts or the U.S. Attorneys' offices for any federal conviction, and mental incompetents are removed upon information from circuit court clerks.
Sara Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections, provided an overview of how other voters are removed from the Voter Registration Database. She said they have a set criterion for deletion and if they don't feel comfortable that the information reflects that it is the same person, then they don't delete them. There is a form called a "Deceased Voters Notice" that is submitted from the counties, which gives the social security number, voter's name and birthdate of individuals the clerks know are deceased in their county, and the voters are purged based upon that submission. This information is received in addition to Vital Statistics' deceased voters' information. Of all the purges, the most laborious and expensive is the inactive voter list, which was specifically created in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 or the "Motor Voter Act" as it is commonly called. Ms. Johnson explained it is a new way of purging and it was created it did not exist before in any state in the nation. She explained that if an individual voter has been mailed an official piece of mail stating they are registered to vote, such as their precinct, jury notices or surrender drivers license notices, and it is returned and the name and address matches exactly what is on their file, then the State Board can use that as an indication under NVRA that they no longer live at that address because that one piece of mail was returned back. Once that happens, a second mailing is sent to the same address and that is called a confirmation mailing. If the voter doesn't vote or update their address within 2 federal general elections, they will be placed on the inactive voter list. If they do show up to vote on Election Day, they are allowed to vote by updating their address listing.
Senator Karem asked if there is something in the register when voters go to the polls that flag them for a newer address. Ms. Johnson said it will be different with the inactive voters for this general election. At the request of the clerks, the inactive voters' list was put on the precinct roster to see if it reduces the number of phone calls. This list will have the person's name and underneath that it will have a designation, as inactive voter so there won't be an address. This should alert the precinct officer that the person's address needs to be verified and updated.
Senator Robinson asked how would a situation be handled if the precinct is notified in advance of inactive voters and the precinct officers are the ones that are participating in the voter fraud. Ms. Johnson was not sure how that could be prevented, other than you would find out later that an ineligible person has voted. If a person is allowed to vote and sign the roster then they should have the necessary documents to go along with it.
Senator Robinson wanted to know how the second notice was sent to voters. Ms. Johnson said the law requires a forwardable two part postcard with the bottom piece being a prepaid notice that the voter can fill out with the correct information to mail back to the State Board.
Representative Harmon asked if there is a criteria of matching up 3 items to remove the deceased voters, and if they only meet 2 of those requirements are they removed. Ms. Johnson said they are not automatically removed, and the staff manually reviews the list.
Senator Tori asked if the detailed information would be given to the precinct workers if the inactive names were going to be on the register. Ms. Johnson said there will be a Precinct Officer Quick Reference Guide, which contains all the questions and procedures on Election Day and is devised in a quick lookup format if they have questions.
Senator Kerr commended Representative Fischer for his suggestion at the last meeting for revising the oath of voter to contain a statement which says, "I affirm that I have not voted and will not vote in another precinct in this state during the election." The new oaths of voters for the 2003 general election will contain that language.
Dr. Rice Leach, Cabinet for Health Services said that the Vital Statistics Branch did not get the death information to the State Board of Elections in a timely fashion. The decrease of employees, due to retirements in the Vital Statistics Branch, had caused these delays. He said they complete 2,000 requests a day for information. The current status is that all death data through June 30th has been forwarded to the State Board. The July 2003 data will be forwarded no later than August 20th. All data should be current within 2 weeks. Once the information is caught up it will be forwarded monthly unless there is a problem. Dr. Leach apologized to the committee for not knowing there was a problem in the Vital Statistics Branch. He said other glitches and the impact of three different system implementations took a great deal of staff time so the accounting and reporting function for the elections people stopped. He said steps are being taken to implement several automation and contract activities to increase their efficiency at no additional cost.
Senator Tori asked how many employees were needed to do a good job. Dr. Leach said they need to modernize and did not know for sure the demand for personnel until the new systems were implemented but would report back to the committee at a later time once everything is up and running.
Representative Arnold said there would not be a Task Force meeting in September.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 PM.