The1st meeting of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on Tuesday, August 24, 2004, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Kerr, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Adrian Arnold, Co-Chair; Senators Ernie Harris, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Joe Barrows, Perry Clark, Joseph Fischer, Mike Harmon, Charlie Hoffman, and Jon David Reinhardt.
Guests: Sarah Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections; Don Blevins, Fayette County Clerk; Sarah Jackson, John Rogers, and Stephen Smith, Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz and Terisa Roland.
Senator Kerr called the meeting to order and noted that there was not a quorum present. Senator Kerr stated that the Help America Vote Act or HAVA, was signed into law in October 2002. The Act was passed in order to correct irregularities in the voting process. The changes for Kentuckians included replacing lever voting machines, improving voter education and training for poll workers, provisional ballots, and mandating that there be at least one voting machine in each polling place that is accessible to voters with disabilities.
Sarah Ball Johnson gave an overview on Kentucky's progress in implementing HAVA. She said that Kentucky was in compliance with all requirements having a January 1, 2004 deadline including the administrative complaint process, the promulgation of provisional voting regulations, and voting information posters created and posted in precincts. Ms Johnson went over a few changes being made to voter registration forms and absentee ballot instructions. Also discussed was federal HAVA payment information including amounts received in 2003 for Title I ($5,000,000) and amounts received on June 17, 2004 for Title 2 ($32,899,292).
Ms. Johnson explained new programs and initiatives for 2004. Among the new programs is a voter registration information website (www.elect.ky.gov). This program allows voters to do a variety of things such as check their voting registration status, find precinct location, and determine the names of their elected officials. Also, a voter registration verification system with a 1-800 phone number to be used by precinct officers has been established. In addition overseas military personnel can vote using this website. She also discussed the ongoing process of aiding the family members of overseas military personnel in on line voting.
Senator Tori asked how those that cannot search the data base know if their vote counted. Ms. Johnson said they should call the county clerks office.
Senator Tori wanted to know the 1-800 phone number mentioned. Ms. Johnson said the number is not known at this point and will be for use by poll workers only for now.
Senator Tori asked who scrubs provisional voters. Ms. Johnson said the county board of elections.
Don Blevins, Fayette County Clerk discussed 2005 legislative issues and concerns of County Clerks. Those 2005 proposals include a 4:00 p.m. deadline for filing Declaration of Intent to be write-in candidate; county board members to resign if candidate for office; delete the requirement for approval for precincts containing less than 350 voters; election officer training requirements; exempt candidates for federal offices, city offices, members of boards of education, soil and water conservation district supervisors from requirement of filing Statement of Candidacy form; require schools to close on primary election days; petition clarifications and uniformity; local option issues; eliminate gubernatorial runoff, and amend various finance requirements and various other statutes.
Representative Arnold said next item on the agenda was discussion of Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Activities. John Rogers, Chair informed the committee of what services the registry staff performs, and how knowledgeable and accessible they are regarding any campaign finance questions. He gave an update on some agency initiatives which included streamlining forms, reducing paper work, the electronic filing program, online database, and development of an advisory group to study election finance laws.
Mr. Rogers said various initiatives have been introduced over the past few years to help candidates in several areas such as recordkeeping, reducing the work of filing officers, and streamlining finance statement completion. With each initiative three questions were asked: Who is the customer? What does the customer want? And how can the registry help? He said the final question led the registry to form their own initiative; if the registry could streamline agency's forms, they could better serve the public.
Stephen Smith, Information Technology Manager, gave the group an update on electronic filing, the online database, and the Registry's web page. He said the electronic filing system which essentially eliminates registry staff from hand keying reports, makes data available to the public in a more timely manner, eliminates keying errors by registry staff, and allows for faster processing of delinquent reports. Mr. Smith stated that the registry's electronic filing system is much faster in preparing reports as compared to forms provided by the Registry, is user friendly, a huge time saver, and convenient for preparing and filing reports. The total number of candidates who used the electronic filing system in May 2204 was 123. Mr. Smith said the release of software for Issue Committees will be this month and for PACs at a later date.
Mr. Smith discussed the Registry's online searchable database which can be searched by contributor name, address, date, amount, occupation, and employer. He said some improvements in the database would include annual summaries. Since 2002, 94,000 people have visited the Registry's online database which is also available on the website. Mr. Smith encouraged the committee to visit the Registry's homepage that includes reporting schedules, brochures, and PAC information.
Senator Harris asked if a mistake was made electronically on a report would there be a problem of violating a law like wire fraud. Ms. Jackson said they do not have a definite answer but their attorney's are aware of the major issues.
Representative Arnold announced there was a quorum present.
Representative Fischer wanted to know if there was a provision for a signature or file number when filing electronically. Mr. Smith said when registering for software a user ID and passed word are assigned.
Mr. Rogers then gave information on an advisory group which the Registry has committed to establish. The committee is to be chaired by the Registry chair and a vice-chair will serve as co-chair. The working name of the committee will be Advisory Task Force for Development of Registry's Legislative Package.
The target date for the Advisory Task Force draft report and recommendation is yet to be determined. The areas to be studied by the advisory group will be suggested by advisory members and Registry staff. Mr. Rogers closed by informing the group that the Registry has received overwhelming positive feedback from those contacted regarding the Advisory Task Force and hope to start to work on it very soon.
Representative Arnold said the next meeting for the Task Force would be September 28, 2004.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:15 PM.
A tape of this meeting and all meeting materials can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.