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, June 27, 2006, at 1:00 PM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Adrian K Arnold, 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, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives James E Bruce, J R Gray, Mike Harmon, Melvin B Henley, Gross C Lindsay, and Darryl T Owens.
Guests: Sarah Ball Johnson, and Katie Dunnigan, State Board of Elections; Sarah Jackson, Connie Verrill, and Rhonda Farmer Gray, Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Erica Warren and Terisa Roland.
The meeting began with Representative Arnold explaining the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). He said HAVA was passed in order to correct irregularities in the voting process, and required each state to formulate a plan to implement certain changes in the election process. He stated that the changes for Kentucky include replacing lever voting machines, improving voting 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. He introduced Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections to give an update on the 2006 Primary Election and how the HAVA requirements affected that election.
Ms. Johnson discussed the new voting equipment used in the primary election. She stated that Kentucky was 100% in compliance with HAVA. (Report on New Voting Equipment used in the Primary Election handout from Ms. Johnson along with a county by county listing of voting equipment.).
Ms. Johnson said results take more time with this system but that it is accuracy over speed right now.
Senator Gibson asked if the counties separated the votes from the old machines and the new machines, he also wanted to know how many were using the new machines. Ms. Johnson stated that anyone was allowed to vote on either machine. She said there is only a grand total of votes cast, and that most people wanted to vote on the new machines. All counties over time will be buying new machines, however they are not mandated to buy them.
Senator Gibson asked if the state would be obligated to help on that purchase. Ms. Johnson said that is something they are exploring regarding the rest of the money from HAVA. She said there is about $18 million left that is obligated under the current state plan.
Senator Gibson asked if the extra money was for machines or if it could be used for training. Ms. Johnson said the extra money that comes back from the purchase of the voting equipment will go back into the election fund. The only way to do anything else with that money would be to go back and re-write the state plan, which is a long process.
Senator Thayer said since the HAVA mandate is to have one machine per precinct and that requirement has been met then the counties can continue to use the old equipment in conjunction with the new machines. He asked if the new machine was there because it is handicap accessible. Ms. Johnson said yes that is right.
Representative Harmon wanted to know if the excess money that comes back, draws interest and if it will be spent. Ms. Johnson said the election fund money ($38 million) goes into an interest bearing account. The money has to spent only on items to improve the election process's that the money does not expire.
Senator Tori wanted to know since the improvement of access for the handicapped to get to the polls, was there a significant increase in their participation. Ms. Johnson said there was a significant increase but that it is to hard to measure actual numbers because there is no way to keep a list of who is handicapped and who is not.
Representative Lindsay asked what was the percentage of votes in the state in May. Ms. Johnson said they are still gathering the total voter turnout but that it looks like it is going to be around 30% just off of projections.
Representative Lindsay asked what would keep them from having the figure. Ms. Johnson said right now all they have is the turnout race by race. She said they scan all the precinct rosters to get who voted and who didn't and add that all together for the turnout percentage.
Representative Lindsay asked if the new machines use adding machine tapes for the vote record. Ms. Johnson said both machines use common paper used in adding machines which give details, election day, time, and race by race totals. This is the same concept that has been used for years.
Next on the agenda was Sarah Jackson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to discuss the 10 most common mistakes made regarding campaign finance reporting. (a handout was provided to the Committee).
Ms. Jackson reviewed the top ten most common problems, violations, or errors made by campaigns in Kentucky.
Accepting individual contributions in excess of contribution
Ban on corporate contributions
Contributions given in the name of another
Manual Reporting Errors
Failure to respond to agency correspondence
Pay attention to your own campaign
Representative Arnold said he admired the agency for trying to be helpful more than punitive. He realizes there are times some action has to be taken but appreciates their helpful attitude.
Representative Bruce asked if someone donated $1,000 during the primary, if after the election is closed, can more money be donated. Ms. Jackson said not by that contributor again for that kind of contribution.
Representative Gray asked what if the campaign treasurer overlooks the fact that someone contributed $750 as a direct contribution then made a $500 in-kind contribution? What happens when the treasurer sees they accepted a contribution in excess of the limit or accepted a prohibited contribution? Can the treasurer of the campaign issue a check back to who-ever remitted that in error and refund the contribution? Ms. Jackson said yes they can do that and it would reflect on their next report. Whether action would be taken depends on all of the circumstances and what kind of race it was. She said statewide campaigns have an ongoing required audit.
Representative Gray asked if an organization runs a newspaper article that is intended to work against a certain candidate, if that constitutes an illegal advertisement. Ms. Jackson said it would depend on the content of the advertisement.
Senator Thayer announced that there would be three more meetings this year.
Business concluded, and the meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.