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Proposed Senate Bill 4 aims to move state elections to even years

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State Sen. Max Wise is a co-sponsor of the bill

By The Staff

 

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A proposed bill making its way through the Kentucky Legislature could cause a major shakeup in the state’s election calendar.

Senate Bill 4 was one of the first bills introduced in the Kentucky Senate this year. The bill, sponsored by 14 Senate Republicans including Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), aims to amend Section 95 of the Kentucky Constitution to hold elections for state officials—such as governor and attorney general—on even-numbered years to coincide with presidential election years.

Senate Bill 4, as proposed, would begin the even-year election cycle for state offices beginning in 2024.

State elections have been held in odd years dating back to 1895, according to the bill. The last state elections were held in 2015. Under this proposal, Kentucky would hold its normal election for the offices of governor/lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor of public accounts, secretary of state, and commissioner of agriculture, labor, and statistics in 2019, as those offices hold four-year terms.

However, the proposed bill would give those who are elected to their respective state-wide offices in 2019 a five-year term instead of the traditional four-year term, so the extra year would place the next state elections in 2024 to coincide with a presidential election.

The bill passed through the Kentucky Senate by a 24-11 vote. Wise, who was not in the Senate Chambers on the day of the vote, had his vote recorded on the bill at a later date, in which he voted in favor of the bill.

Wise, via a text message last week, stated, “Senate Bill 4 is a great way to increase voter participation and turnout while saving our commonwealth millions of dollars.”

The bill was then sent to the Kentucky House of Representatives. As of press time, the bill was still being discussed in the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

State Rep. John “Bam” Carney had not commented about how he intended to vote on the bill as of press time.

Being an amendment to the state constitution, if the bill were to pass, it would go before Kentucky voters on the ballot in November 2018. The question on the ballot would read as follows, according to the language contained in the bill: "Are you in favor of holding the election of all statewide Constitutional officers in even-numbered years beginning in 2024 to save substantial state and local funds?"

Registered voters in the state of Kentucky would have the final decision on whether the change is made by casting their votes for or against the proposal.

Proponents of the bill contend that moving state elections to even-numbered years to coincide with presidential elections will serve a dual purpose: increased voter turnout and savings to the state and individual counties.

Voter turnout in Kentucky has traditionally been higher for presidential elections and local elections, while traditionally lower in the odd-year state elections. In 2015, the last odd-year state election, Taylor County had a 35.7 percent turnout, roughly five percent more than the 30.68 percent statewide turnout.

Compare that with the turnout for the 2016 presidential election, in which there was a 63 percent voter turnout in Taylor County, many lawmakers say they want to see that type of turnout—and even higher—for elections to state-wide offices.

Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney provided local election turnout statistics that show 871 more people voted in the 2016 primary election as opposed to 2015 and 5,101 more people voted in the 2016 general election as opposed to the 2015 general election in Taylor County.

Additionally, lawmakers who favor the bill point to added savings to the state and counties with one less election.

A Local Government Mandate Statement filed in the legislature and available for public viewing through the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission states that based on 2015 estimates, counties could save as much as $13.5 million total during the calendar year in which there would no longer be an election (in this case, the first year of that scenario would be 2023.)

Mark Carney, who said he is in favor of the bill, said that state elections are the simplest elections for the Clerk’s office, but those still cost at least $17,500. Doubling that to account for a primary and general election, the county could save $35,000 by not having an odd-year election.

More information about the bill can be found through the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s website at the following link http://bit.ly/2n2YxLB.