Secretary of State
Secretary of State Announces Proposed Legislation to Decrease Costs in Special Elections

Press Release Date:  Thursday, January 26, 2012  
Contact Information:  Lynn Sowards Zellen
Director of Communications
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Phone: 502-330-9839

Today, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Rep. Darryl T. Owens, Chairman of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, announced legislation to save Kentucky taxpayers money with respect to special elections in which only one candidate seeks office.

“At a time when many Kentucky families are making tough decisions, leaders in state government must also be expected to find ways to cut unnecessary government spending,” said Grimes. “Chairman Owens and I share a commitment to finding ways to save taxpayers money and make state government more efficient,” Grimes added.  “While working with the county clerks, we have found a way to avoid unnecessary costs to taxpayers and maintain the integrity of the election process.” 

The proposed legislation, House Bill 293, works to avoid unnecessary costs to counties and taxpayers when only one candidate is seeking to be nominated.  Owens and Grimes, the state’s Chief Elections Official and Chair of the State Board of Elections, have worked together to draft legislation that would permit a county to conduct voting in an uncontested special election at the County Clerk’s office, or at another location designated by the county board of elections and approved by the State Board of Elections. At a cost of more than $1,000 per precinct for a special election, the bill would save taxpayers, the state and our counties tens of thousands of dollars per special election.

For instance, in a special election last December, voters in 40 precincts in Whitley and Laurel counties elected Rep. Regina Bunch to represent the 82nd House District. The special election was scheduled to fill the vacancy created when Bunch’s husband, former Rep. Dewayne Bunch, resigned after suffering a severe brain injury while breaking up a fight between students.

Bunch ran unopposed. Only 2.5% of the voters in Whitley County turned out for the special election, and fewer than 1% of registered voters in Laurel County participated. The election cost a total of approximately $47,000—$40,000 in Whitley County and $7,000 in Laurel County. After reimbursements from the State Board of Elections, Whitley and Laurel county taxpayers bore an estimated $33,000 and $6,200, respectively. Whitley County Clerk and President of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, Kay Schwartz, speaking in support of the bill, offered her first-hand account of the December uncontested election.  Reps. Joni Jenkins, who co-sponsored the bill, and Bunch were also on-hand to show their support.

In introducing House Bill 293, Owens stated, “This is a commonsense piece of legislation to reign in unnecessary expenses in uncontested special elections. I am grateful for the hard work and expertise of Secretary Grimes and her staff in helping craft this legislation. I look forward to my colleagues in the General Assembly joining us in our bipartisan effort to save the state these unnecessary costs.”