The4th 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 28, 2006, at 1:00 PM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Adrian K Arnold, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Adrian K Arnold, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M Carroll, Carroll Gibson, Alice Forgy Kerr, and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Joe Barrows, James E Bruce, Mike Cherry, Joseph M Fischer, J R Gray, Mike Harmon, Melvin B Henley, Gross C Lindsay, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl T Owens, and Jon David Reinhardt.
Guests: Trey Grayson, Secretary of State; Sarah Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections; Roger Baird, Harp Elections Services; Don Blevins, Fayette County Clerk; James Lewis, Leslie County Clerk, and Guy Zeigler, Franklin County Clerk.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Erica Warren and Terisa Roland.
Representative Arnold asked for the approval of the September 26, 2006 minutes, and they were approved. He said the November 7, 2006 election was historic in several ways there being over 4,000 races on the ballot, more than any other time in the history of Kentucky. Many voters used the new accessible voting machines required by the Help America Vote Act, for the first time. Some of the machines were also used during the primary, and a great number of voters used the new machines during the regular election. He said with such a large number of races and the new machines in place, the Task Force wanted to hear from Kentucky's chief election official, Secretary of State, Trey Grayson.
Secretary Grayson discussed the historic election stating there were more races on the ballot, and more candidates running for those offices than ever before. It was also the very first election since the passage of the Help America Vote Act with all its requirements in effect. He said with having a year off (no elections in 2005), gave them more time to prepare for the 2006 election. Secretary Grayson said the county clerks and poll workers who are the backbone of any election, did a wonderful job under tough circumstances. He said the election went well in a number of areas, but there still a few areas that can be improved.
Secretary Grayson said the things that worked well were the machines, old and new. He said the federal law requires the new machines so that blind voters and other voters with disabilities can vote without assistance. There were some issues with the tabulation system, but mostly it was the training and hardware. He stated that those problems have been addressed and fixed. Another issue in larger urban areas and with the large number of races, were long waiting lines in many precincts. Secretary Gray said the HAVA State Plan is in the process of being amended, which will permit the allocation of dollars to the counties to buy new machines. Secretary Gray said other states are adopting early voting in advance of election day and to do that, there have to be specific circumstances and that most people would fall into those specific categories. He said early voting, will add additional costs. He also said that there has not been any increases in the state reimbursement to counties for years. However, costs have gone up and poll worker training and poll worker pay have remained flat for most counties. Finally he said that because of the lack of funds counties have trouble recruiting new poll workers.
Sarah Ball Johnson, State Board of Elections, discussed issues in regard to voting machines breaking down. She said county clerks work with the vendors, and have technicians on site election day to handle machines that fail or to answer questions regarding tabulating, etc. She also discussed split-precincts where city and county voters vote in the same precinct. She said there is a set up on the voting machines to minimize problems when there are split precincts and that the school board and the city provides the county clerk with information to code the voters. The precinct officer can then identify who is in the city, by a code that prints out on the precinct roster, which is called the town code field.
Senator Carroll said the new machines, have a summary screen so that a person can see if they have voted on all races.
Representative Gray favors early voting as long as the proper safeguards are in place. He asked the number of days permitted before an election in early voting. Secretary Grayson said it ranges from a few weeks to a month.
Representative Owens wanted to know if a voting machine breaks down may a the supplemental ballot be provided. Ms. Johnson said the county board of elections makes that decision.
Representative Harmon suggested a day of training for the poll workers and a split day for election officers.
Representative Marizan commented being uncomfortable with the new machines because there is no verified voter paper audit trail.
Roger Baird, Harp Elections Services provides the majority of the electronic voting systems, new and old used in Kentucky. Mr. Baird explained Harp's background, adding that there are only two or three vendors in Kentucky that take care of voting equipment. Harps furnishes voting equipment to 96 counties. He explained the two machines used, and stating that the e-slate machine complies with the Help American Vote Act. He also explained the problems they are faced with and how each of the counties with the two systems were handled.
There was discussion on the length of time that it took to vote on the new machines the pros and cons of the new machines, and also whether counties will go uniform with one of the machines in the future. The decision will be up to the individual counties.
Chairman Arnold introduced the following three county clerks and asked each one to give a brief discussion of their recent election.
Don Blevins, Fayette County Clerk said Fayette County had all new machines for this election and that the situation has been too rushed, explaining that having only 1 new voting machine in each precinct in the state of Kentucky was not enough. He stated that Fayette County ended up with the electronic voting machines to fulfill the HAVA dictate. He suggest that the process not get more complicated because it will slow down the voting.
James Lewis, Leslie County Clerk agreed with Mr. Blevins that counties cannot handle early voting without an increase in funds from the General Assembly. He said the election went well mechanically but took the voter longer with the new machine.
Chairman Arnold asked if the county clerks needed more money for more training. They all agreed with his statement.
Guy Zeigler, Franklin County Clerk also the new president of the Kentucky Association of County Clerks said in the past if voters were in line at 6:00 p.m., they could vote up until 7:00 p.m. then the voting would cease. Now if the voter is in line by 6:00 p.m. they will be allowed to vote no matter how long the line is or how long it will take. He also said that it takes county clerks longer to prepare for an election than it used to take. He stated that he is now spending almost 4 months out of the year to get ready for election days.
Chairman Arnold said this is just the beginning for the upcoming election process and is hopeful there will be more money for the county elections.
Business concluded, and the meeting adjourned at 3:10 p.m.