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, October 28, 2008, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Darryl T. Owens, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Darryl T. Owens, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Alice Forgy Kerr, Elizabeth Tori, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Mike Cherry, Larry Clark, Tim Firkins, Joseph M. Fischer, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, Mary Lou Marzian, John Will Stacy, Kathy W. Stein, and Greg Stumbo.
Guests: Trey Grayson, Secretary of State; Katie Gabbard, State Board of Elections; James Lewis and Don Blevins, Kentucky County Clerks Association; Ryan Halloran, Office of Attorney General.
LRC Staff: Judy Fritz, Bill VanArsdall, and Terisa Roland.
Representative Owens asked for approval of the October 28, 2008 minutes, and they were approved.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and Katie Gabbard, State Board of Elections, gave a summary on pros and cons of early voting.
Secretary Grayson said early voting occurs when a person wants to vote on any day prior to Election Day, with an excuse. He said early voting has been expanded in some states so anyone can vote early if they choose. Early voting reduces the lines on Election Day and more people are voting which reflects a more mobile lifestyle.
Secretary Grayson said the main argument against early voting is the expense. To prepare for early voting means more staff in county clerks’ offices, and an extra cost for challengers. He said there is a constitutional issue in Kentucky. Our constitution states the election is the first Tuesday in November and that voting has to be done that day unless the person is out of the county. Secretary Grayson agrees that early voting is a good option, but that it should be limited to a shorter period of time than most states currently allow.
Representative Owens wanted to know how many days the Secretary would recommend. Secretary Grayson said less than a month.
Ms. Gabbard said Section 147 of the Kentucky Constitution allows early voting for individuals who will be out of the county on Election Day. She also said that federal law permits persons in the military, citizens out of the country or handicapped persons are allowed to vote early. She said the statutes are very confusing and that it would be good to have a constitutional amendment to clear up all of the issues.
Representative Owens said information supplied by the Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections regarding early voting was in the folders.
Representative Stein asked Secretary Grayson about a constituent that was 65 years old who asked her about early voting for himself and other elderly people.
There was discussion on how many days before Election Day that would be considered “early.”
Representative Owens said a summary of 09 RS BR 187, and a draft of legislation that would permit early voting was in their folders.
There was discussion about the election hours being extended and also discussion about Election Day being moved to Saturdays. More states are adapting to early voting instead of voting on Saturdays.
James Lewis, County Clerk of Leslie County, and Legislative Liaison for the Kentucky County Clerks’ Association said the association’s position on early voting is that the constitutional question has to be resolved. He said everyone understands that there are administrative problems with early voting or absentee voting and there will need to be financial help for most precincts for either of these to occur.
Don Blevins, County Clerk of Fayette County, said that the cost would be greater for larger districts but each precinct would need to be ready for early voting. He said the idea of early voting has expanded nationally.
Mr. Blevins said voting centers need to be available for citizens voting in their county but not necessarily their precinct.
Representative Clark said that increasing the pay of precinct pay would bring better workers.
Ryan Halloran, attorney with the Office of the Attorney General discussed an electronic poll book that is used in other states; however, this book requires either a phone or internet modem, which may not be secure. He said that though the General Assembly has passed some exceptions for early voters, a constitutional amendment would be needed to further change the rules for early voting.
Senator Carroll said he thought only constitutional amendments could be put on the ballot when legislators were up for election, which would be 2010. Senator Carroll then asked if the General Assembly could pass an act now subject to the passage of the constitutional amendment in 2010. No one responded so Senator Carroll asked the staff to send a letter to the Attorney General to issue an opinion to that question and report back to the committee.
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.