The3rd meeting of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on Tuesday, September 26, 2006, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 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, Alice Forgy Kerr, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives James E Bruce, Mike Cherry, Mike Harmon, Melvin B Henley, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl T Owens, Jon David Reinhardt, and Kathy W Stein.
Guests: Senator Gerald Neal and Representative Jessie Crenshaw; Ed Monahan, Catholic Conference of Kentucky; Trey Grayson, Secretary of State; Sarah Ball Johnson, and Katie Dunnigan, State Board of Elections.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Erica Warren and Terisa Roland.
Representative Arnold asked Sarah Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections, to begin the meeting with a presentation about voter education.
Ms. Johnson said it has been two years since people voted in the 2004 General Election, and the State Board of Election's intention is to educate the public on how important voting is. She gave a presentation (with a copy to the committee) of posters that they produced with state money which were distributed to all the Kentucky high schools, colleges, and universities, as well as at the state fair. Ms. Johnson said they are not very "patriotic" and they want it to be a new take on voting. She said it is designed to appeal to the voter who has not thought about their voice being heard and not voting.
Trey Grayson, Secretary of State, said in keeping with the theme of the disengaged voter, and the state plan established under the Help American Vote Act, the plan is to spend money to help educate the voters. Since this is an off-year election, they will continue with the theme of the posters. They are mailing informational postcards to every registered voter reminding them of Election Day, polling hours, numbers of the State Board of Elections, their local county clerk, the attorney general's hotline number for fraud, and voting location. The plan is to spend money to help educate voters and put information in the hands of the voters. (A rough draft copy of the postcard and a pamphlet about civic literacy were handed out to the committee).
There was discussion regarding the numerous precinct changes, made before and after the primary, how word would get out to the voters on the changes in their area, and discussion on changes of address for voters. There are over 100,000 inactive voters and 2.7 million active voters. The inactive voters can vote if they sign an oath of voter on election day then the county clerk would add them back to the voter roll during the next two federal elections.
Katie Dunigan, State Board of Elections spoke briefly about the litigation brought by the Attorney General's office about names purged from the statewide voter registration database prior to this year's primary. She said there is a difference of opinion about the application of KRS 116.112, which is informally called the inactive process. Ms. Dunnigan and Secretary Grayson briefly explained the inactive process.
Senator Gerald Neal and Representative Jessie Crenshaw spoke on voting rights of felons once they have paid their dues to society.
Senator Neal said he has sponsored bills in at least two sessions. (copies of '05 RS SB 177 and '06 RS SB 251 were handed out to the committee). He said Section 145 of the Constitution specifies that a convicted felon cannot vote until the felon's rights have been restored by executive pardon by the Governor, but his bills aim to restore that right automatically for most felons under specified circumstances. Senator Neal said Kentucky has over 55,000 felons in prison, on probation, or on parole and that after they serve their sentence, they cannot vote. He said there is an estimated 147,000 current or former felons who cannot vote, 35,955 of whom are African American. The Governor denies applications if the person still owes fines, has not completed restitution or has pending charges. Senator Neal thinks the key issue is that voting is a fundamental right. He stated that Alabama, Florida, Iowa, and Virginia are the only states, along with Kentucky, where restoration rights are solely on the discretion of the Governor.
Representative Crenshaw echoed Senator Neal's comments and liked the provisions of his proposed constitutional amendment ('06 RS HB 480, a copy of which was provided to the members of the committee). Representative Crenshaw then introduced Mr. Ed Monahan, Catholic Conference of Kentucky, a member of the voting rights coalition which supports allowing all people of Kentucky the right to vote whether or not they want to change the constitution regarding felon voting rights. Mr. Monahan stated polling has shown that 80% of the people have expressed their approval of letting a felon vote after they have paid their debt to society. He said national organizations have endorsed that the right to vote be automatically restored after the completion of a felons sentence. Mr. Monahan provided a handout for the committee.
Senator Tori asked if it would be better to consider a restoration of civil rights on a case by case basis rather than a blanket restoration. Senator Neal said denying someone the fundamental right to vote removes the image or the promise of democracy.
Senator Carroll stated that he was the only member at the meeting that has pardoned anyone. He said there is a major problem in Kentucky with the constitutional provision and discussed the problems with the current provision but was skeptical of such a blanket approval.
Representative Arnold asked for the approval of the July 25, 2006 minutes, and they were approved.
The final meeting of the committee is scheduled for November 28, 2006.
Business concluded, and the meeting adjourned at 2:15 p.m.