Call to Order and Roll Call
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, August 28, 2012, 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 Walter Blevins Jr., Jimmy Higdon, R.J. Palmer II, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, and Robert Stivers II; Representatives Mike Cherry, Larry Clark, Joseph M. Fischer, Derrick Graham, Mike Harmon, Mary Lou Marzian, and John Will Stacy.
Guests: Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State.
May 2012 Primary
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes began the meeting by giving the Task Force a review of the May 2012 primary. Secretary Grimes used a PowerPoint presentation to cover the topics of: (1) voting equipment used by each county; (2) the number of 2012 primary precincts; (3) the Kentucky counties affected by Congressional redistricting in the 2012 Regular Session (HB 302) that required precinct changes; (4) voter registration statistics; (5) a comparison of past Kentucky election turnout percentages and the turnout percentages for the May 2012 primary; and (6) a review of issues in the primary as indicated by calls to the State Board of Elections or the Attorney General.
The primary focus of the presentation was on the data relating to voter registration and turnout. The Secretary noted that based on past primary turnout results her office had predicted that approximately 10-12 percent of Kentucky’s registered voters would participate in the May primary, but that the actual total statewide turnout was 13.9 percent of registered voters. She also stated that within the total turnout statistics there was a range of 10-40 percent turnout in individual counties and 25 counties that had a turnout greater than 20 percent, with counties that had local races on the ballot, especially circuit clerk races, seeing greater participation numbers.
The Secretary testified that there were a total of 28 calls to the State Board of Elections on primary day, with all calls referred to county attorneys or the Attorney General when appropriate. An additional 31 calls were received by the Attorney General’s fraud hotline.
Elections Issues for 2013 Regular Session
Secretary Grimes also discussed a few legislative initiatives that were either considered in the 2012 Regular Session or that her office would pursue in the 2013 Regular Session.
The Secretary said her office had advocated for, and the General Assembly had passed, HB 293 in the 2012 session, which established cost saving mechanisms for uncontested special elections for vacant General Assembly seats. The Secretary stated that the new language had not yet been applied because no applicable special election had been conducted, but that the new measure could save a county or counties considerable money when conducting such elections in the future.
The Secretary then reviewed a recent lawsuit that her office had filed in Franklin Circuit Court relating to the inability of her office to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 with the current statutory filing periods for special elections. The Secretary stated that under Kentucky law, in KRS 118.770, “When a writ of election or proclamation is issued to fill a vacancy, independent, or political organization, or political group petitions and certificates of nomination shall be filed at least twenty-eight days before the election.” However, the MOVE Act requires absentee ballots to be transmitted to military and overseas voters within 45 days of the election, and that the timing of the special elections and the filing periods would not allow the 45 day period to be met. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin her office from enforcing the KRS 118.770 filing period, and an agreed order has been submitted to move the deadline up, which will correct the issue for this year’s special elections. The Secretary noted that the General Assembly needs to amend KRS 118.770 to correct the deadline conflict, and that her office would be advocating for that amendment in the 2013 session.
Before moving on to additional legislative initiatives, the members asked the Secretary several questions relating to the prior agenda item on registration and turnout statistics. A few members were concerned that the total number of registered voters reported by the Secretary appeared to result in nearly 100 percent voter registration when the under-18 population was subtracted from the state total population. The Secretary noted that the voter rolls often have a lag time in registration statistics because her office must both protect a person’s constitutional right to vote and comply with a statutory framework to purge from the voter rolls a registered voter that may have died or otherwise become ineligible to vote in Kentucky. The members also asked several general questions relating to the time periods available to register to vote, as well as on the costs of elections and the ability to recruit, train, and pay precinct workers to work the polls on primary and election days.
The questions on costs were timely because the Secretary next noted that her office would also propose that the General Assembly should consider amending candidate filing fees in the 2013 Regular Session. The Secretary noted that many of Kentucky’s filing fees are lower than in neighboring states, and that an increase in fees would directly increase funds available to administer elections – a cost that is borne by the counties if fees are insufficient. Her office would support efforts to amend KRS 118.255(1) and (2) to increase fees for candidates at both the state and county level for most offices. The Secretary also testified that the General Assembly should consider amending KRS 118.255(1) to permit the Secretary of State to waive a second filing fee for a candidate that has previously filed and paid the filing fee for a General Assembly office, when redistricting changes the district number and/or boundaries for a district that requires the candidate to withdraw and re-file in the new district.
A copy of the handout summarizing these topics can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.
The business concluded, and the meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.