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, July 26, 2005, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Adrian K Arnold, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M Carroll, Carroll Gibson, Alice Kerr, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Perry B Clark, Joseph M Fischer, J R Gray, Mike Harmon, Melvin B Henley, Mary Lou Marzian, and Kathy W Stein.
Guests: Senator Dan Seum; Sarah Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Erica Warren, Terisa Roland.
Senator Thayer called the meeting to order and noted there was a quorum present. Senator Thayer started the meeting with Senator Seum discussing a prefiled bill for the 2006 Regular Session, BR 123.
Senator Seum is proposing an amendment to Section 36 of the Constitution of Kentucky which relates to sessions of the General Assembly. He would like to amend Section 36 to move the budget in odd-numbered years to a 30 day session in a non-election year, and to separate the budget from other issues.
Representative Gray agreed in principle and asked Senator Seum if he would consider putting the 30 day session in even-numbered years and the 60 day session in odd-numbered years. Senator Seum said yes.
Senator Carroll suggested a drafting change regarding the governor's ability to add items to the agenda for the session. He recommended filing a proclamation with the Secretary of State. Senator Carroll also, suggested that a bill be sponsored by both the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to be sure they are in agreement about issues selected to be taken up by the Legislature. He recommended (2) 45 day Sessions. Senator Thayer stated support for BR 123.
Senator Thayer asked if issues will always come up that could force an impasse. Senator Seum said yes.
Next on the agenda Representative Arnold explained the Help America Vote Act or HAVA, which was signed into law in October 2002. The Act was passed in order to correct irregularities in the voting process. The changes for Kentucky include 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. Information was included in a handout to the subcommittee. She said HAVA legislation provides money to the states and local governments to update their voting machines. Local governments are required to have updated procedures required by HAVA, in place by the 2006 primary elections.
Ms. Johnson said four major upgrades will be made to voting machines before the next federal elections: Pull-lever voting machines, used in six counties currently but declared unusable in federal elections, will be replaced by new voting machines; every county except Jefferson County will have its machines updated with software that can manually audit its results ballot by ballot. Jefferson County is the only county that is currently able to print out each ballot individually for inspection and counting. Each ballot, however, will be randomly printed out, and no names will be matched to an individual ballot. Each voting location in the state will include at least one handicapped-accessible voting machine. Each county will be given $10,000 to purchase an optical scanning machine for absentee ballots.
All machines will be paid for using nearly $32.9 million in federal funds, as well as nearly $1.7 million in state money. Twenty million dollars will be spent by the primary in 2006. Ms. Johnson stated that counties will be reimbursed for their purchases up to a fixed amount. Any leftover funds will be used by the state to address other voting needs. Ms. Johnson said counties are planning to move some precincts to handicapped-accessible locations such as schools.
Ms. Johnson said in addition, there will be statewide regulations for how paper ballots can be counted and how a vote is determined. She said at the present time it's possible to interpret a marked ballot in different ways, so therefore, they want to make sure there is no debate over what constitutes a vote.
Representative Harmon asked if handicapped persons would be able to exceed the 2 minute rule. Ms. Johnson said that there is a state statue that says 2 minutes is the rule. But it is something that can be looked at again after the primary if modification is needed.
Senator Carroll asked about the procedural of purchasing machines through the Board of Elections. Ms. Johnson said they have MOA with the counties to be effective in July. The county purchases the machines then reimbursement is made by the Secretary of State.
Representative Gray asked with electronic storing if compiled information is available to any particular voter in what races they failed to vote in. Ms. Johnson said no.
Senator Thayer asked if HAVA is for federal elections. Ms. Johnson said yes. Ms. Johnson also said HAVA requires that by January 1, 2006, that each state determine what constitutes a vote.
Representative Stein wanted to know if convicted felons pardoned was reported to them. Ms. Johnson said no the information goes to the Secretary of State.
Senator Carroll asked how the board planned on spending excess money. Ms. Johnson said any money left over will be put back into other programs which also has a miscellaneous category that cannot be spent until all HAVA requirements are met.
Representative Fischer asked if the regulations on definition of "voter" would be enacted before 2006. Ms. Johnson said yes they must be enacted by January 1, 2006.
Representative Arnold said the next meeting for the Task Force would be August 23, 2005.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:30.
A tape of this meeting and all meeting materials can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.