The2nd meeting of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on Tuesday, November 23, 2004, at 1:00 PM, in Room 129 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 Tom Buford, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Perry Clark, Mike Harmon, Charlie Hoffman, and Jon David Reinhardt.
Guests: Trey Grayson, Kentucky Secretary of State; Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director, State Board of Elections.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Erica Warren and Terisa Roland.
Senator Kerr called the meeting to order and noted that there was not a quorum present.
Trey Grayson began his presentation with a discussion on electioneering issues. He stated that Rep. Arnold had prefiled a bill for the 2005 Regular Session reducing the prohibited distance from 500 feet to 100 feet to a polling place regarding electioneering activities. He stated that the courts had found that 100 feet was an acceptable distance. Secretary Grayson informed the Task Force that 100 counties have passed local election ordinances regarding the distance that had to be maintained between a polling place and electioneering activities, but that they were not uniform. He also suggested that mock elections for school children be held, and that language for charter county or consolidated local governments be updated.
Secretary Grayson expressed concern over the practice of vote hauling. He stated that there is a need for the transporting of voters to polling places, but stated that the money prepaid to the haulers could be used to pay voters being transported, to cast their ballots for a specific candidate. He said that any abuse needs to be addressed without doing away with transporting voters who need a ride to the polls.
Secretary Grayson also discussed possible changes within KRS Chapter 17 including: that members of the county board of elections appointed by the State Board of Elections be required to resign if he or she becomes a candidate for public office; that training for state and county officials be offered on election laws; that a deadline be established for the filing of the declaration of intent for write-in candidates; that the board be permitted to pay a county 's election expenses for precincts with less than 350 registered voters; and that the parameters of the essay and slogan contest be broadened regarding topics, sponsorship, and monetary awards.
Changes in Chapter 118 were discussed by Secretary Grayson including, nominations for regular election by petition, and statement of candidacy forms for independent candidates.
Absentee ballots were also discussed by Secretary Grayson. He stated that eligibility requirements for such ballots need to be reformed. He said that many workers are on the job from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., they work in their own county and therefore, are not eligible for absentee balloting. He sited health care workers as example.
Secretary Grayson discussed campaign finance reform including reporting criteria, use of electronic filings by candidates, and the establishment of an election finance task force by the Registry of Election Finance.
Representative Arnold said that in previous years bills had been filed to outlaw hauling voters, but such bills had not passed. Senator Tori stated hauling voters should be a voluntary arrangement without pay. Secretary Grayson said he hoped a solution would be found to cure this problem.
Senator Kerr said a bill has been drafted to close schools on primary day as well as on general election day, for the safety of students. She stated that the bill would be prefiled.
Secretary Grayson reported to the task force that Kentucky is compliant with all Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requirements having a January 1, 2004 deadline. Secretary Grayson also reported on the 2004 primary elections and 2004 general elections, stating that more registered voters had cast ballots this year than ever before in Kentucky's history. He stated that voting information has been posted in precincts and that certain questions have been added to mail-in voter registration forms.
Representative Reinhardt asked if there was a set time for the counting of absentee ballots to begin. Ms. Johnson said the counting starts at 10:00 AM.
In regards to new programs and initiatives Secretary Grayson discussed the Voter Information Center on the State Board of Elections website (www.elec.ky.gov). The site permits a person to check their voter registration status and other election related information. He discussed the "provisional voter" page included on the website which allows those who voted a provisional ballot to search the database to learn whether their vote was counted and if not, the reason why. A "military and overseas voter page" is also included on the website and Secretary Grayson discussed several military initiatives that were underway to aid in military voting which included expressed mail of ballots to and from soldiers and military e-mail.
Secretary Grayson discussed HAVA requirements that have a January 1, 2006 deadline. These include voting systems that are accessible to disabled individuals, the replacement of lever voting machines in 6 counties, and electronic voting systems that produce a paper audit trial of all votes cast. A HAVA payment in the amount of $32,899,292 was received on June 17, 2004. This money will be used to buy voting machines when federal voting machine standards are finally issued. Lastly, Secretary Grayson stated that no HAVA money has been appropriated in any of the proposed federal 2005 fiscal year budgets.
Representative Arnold asked if any federal money would be given to the counties to update their machines. Secretary Grayson said that portions of the HAVA funds have been devoted to assist the counties with the purchase of voting machines, but that the ultimate responsibility fell on the fiscal courts of the counties.
Representative Arnold asked if Jefferson County had machines or paper ballots. Secretary Grayson said they have an optical scan system, so it is both. Jefferson County can already produce a paper trail. Representative Arnold asked how much more money was expected from HAVA. Secretary Grayson said no money had been promised but that they were hoping for an additional authorization of $5 million.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 PM.
A tape of this meeting and all meeting materials can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.