Interim Joint Committee on State Government

 

Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 5th Meeting

of the 2011 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> October 25, 2011

 

Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 5th meeting of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on<Day> Tuesday,<MeetMDY2> October 25, 2011, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Darryl T. Owens, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Darryl T. Owens, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Jimmy Higdon, Gerald A. Neal, R.J. Palmer II, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, Robert Stivers II, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Kevin D Bratcher, Mike Cherry, Larry Clark, Joseph M. Fischer, Derrick Graham, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, and John Will Stacy.

 

Guests: Elaine Walker, Secretary of State; Kenneth L. Tab, Hardin County Clerk; Julie K. Barr, Oldham County Clerk; and Mimi Marziani, Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

 

LRC Staff: Greg Woosley, Bill VanArsdall, Karen Powel, Kevin Devlin, and Terisa Roland.

 

Approval of Minutes

The minutes of the meeting of September 27, 2011, were approved without objection upon motion by Senator Thayer and second by Representative Clark.

 

Update on Polling Place Accessibility

Secretary Elaine Walker updated the Task Force on polling place accessibility. Secretary Walker testified that evaluating polling place accessibility is a continuous process and that any new polling place is surveyed before being approved as accessible by the Kentucky Disabilities Coalition. As many as 151 polling places out of approximately 2,500 were listed as inaccessible in the early part of 2011, but this number has been reduced to 12, with an additional 16 polling places needing surveys and final approval by October, 2011.

 

A copy of Secretary Walkerís presentation can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.

 

Discussion of Local Option Elections

The Task Force discussed local option elections. Secretary Walker first testified that current law requires that local option elections be held not earlier than 60 days or not later than 90 days from the filing of the petition, and that local option elections cannot be held on the same day as a primary or regular election. Hardin County Clerk Kenneth Tab and Oldham County Clerk Julie Barr then testified as to their recent experiences with local option elections, and both clerks expressed concern at the cost of holding these elections on days other than primaries or regular elections. Ms. Barr noted that current law requires counties to ask potential poll workers whether they support or oppose the local option election issue, and that this inquiry can make it difficult to find adequate numbers of workers. Mr. Tab testified that Hardin County had four local option elections this year alone, with the last election comprising 30 precincts at an approximate total cost of $33,000. Both clerks testified that they did not believe having local option elections on regularly scheduled election days would be a burden, and both clerks suggested that the General Assembly should consider making this statutory change to help the counties cut election costs.

 

Several members of the Task Force posed questions and voiced their opinions and concerns to changing local option election days.

 

The members asked Secretary Walker to discuss potential voter turnout for the upcoming 2011 general election before moving on to the next agenda item. Secretary Walker reported that her office was estimating a 25 to 8 percent turnout based on the rate of requested absentee ballots compared to the rate of requests and ultimate voter turnout observed in prior elections.

 

A copy of the presentation can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.

 

Voting Law Changes in 2012 Ė A National Study

Mimi Marziani, Counsel to the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, then presented a national study and report on voting law changes in 2012. Ms. Marziani noted that many states enacted new registration and voter identification laws in the 2011 legislative sessions, and that the Brennan Centerís research indicated that these new laws could have an adverse impact on voter participation in the 2012 elections. Specifically, Ms. Marziani noted that several states enacted new voter identification requirements, but that these efforts were proving to be costly due to litigation, free identification card requirements, and necessary public information campaigns during implementation. As an example, Ms. Marziani noted that a fiscal note attached to a Missouri voter identification bill estimated the costs at $6,000,000 to implement and as much as $4,000,000 in ongoing annual costs.

 

Several members of the Task Force voiced their opinions and concerns on Ms. Marzianiís presentation, with the focus being a desire by some members to ensure election integrity balanced against concerns by other members about the costs of new voting restrictions and the potential impacts on already low voter turnout numbers.

 

Ms. Marziani distributed copies of the Brennan Centerís national study and report to the members, and she utilized a PowerPoint presentation to summarize the findings in the report. A copy of the Brennan Centerís report and Ms. Marzianiís PowerPoint presentation can be found in the Legislature Research Commission library.

 

Business concluded, and the meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.