Frankfort, Ky. (January 18, 2024) -- Secretary of State Michael Adams provided the following remarks today to the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs:
Thanks for letting me speak to you today about the state of Kentucky’s elections and my recommendations to you for this legislative session.
First, let me thank you for being good partners. Over the past 4 years, our Commonwealth has received attention and praise nationally, and even internationally, for how we conduct our elections. You deserve a great deal of the credit for this, for 2 reasons: One, you have worked well with me and my staff, and with each other across party lines, in good faith and in pursuit of common goals of voter access and election integrity. Two, unlike legislators in some other states, you have acted rationally, and have been driven by facts rather than outlandish conspiracy theories.
My first request of you is to not go backwards. It would be catastrophic, going into a presidential election, with very high turnout anticipated, to take away 3 of our 4 voting days. It will be challenge enough to shoehorn an expected 2 million voters into 4 days; I don’t know how we would fit this many voters into 1 day, without major problems.
Beyond defending our gains, we can continue to improve the election process. In the last biennial budget, you were generous in allocating higher base funding for elections, plus a specific appropriation for upgrading election equipment. Thanks to you, this past November, every single vote in Kentucky was cast on a paper ballot. I’ve found that regardless where a voter falls on the political spectrum, voters love, and trust, paper ballots. By eliminating electronic voting machines and transitioning to paper ballots counted by optical scanners, you’ve given Kentucky the best of both worlds: the speed of a quick count, and the security of a paper trail.
How can we improve the voting experience in 2024? I’d say the most important thing you can do is align this increased funding with performance by election officials. Let me give you an example. In November of 2022, during an election with everything on the ballot from U.S. Senate, to U.S. House, to General Assembly, to county offices, to municipal offices, to judgeships at every level, to 2 constitutional amendments, Carroll County, with 11 precincts, closed 10 precincts and gave its voters only 1 place to vote in the entire county. The following week, the county got a check from you, in an amount based on its number of precincts. We shouldn’t pay the counties for voting locations they don’t open. We should alter the funding formula that allocates funding by precinct and base these allocations on number of registered voters. This would remove the incentive to inflate the number of precincts, close the polls, and take the check.
There is more we can do on election integrity as well. Kentucky runs clean elections. On the rare occasion that there is cheating, it is caught and prosecuted. Asking for additional measures is not a concession that our elections are not secure. But we do need to make constant improvements just to keep up with the state of play. Let me give you an example.
Kentucky, pursuant to a federal court order, has belonged to the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, since before I took office. We have used ERIC membership to improve election integrity in 2 ways. One, it has enabled states to trade information on what voters have moved elsewhere and re-registered elsewhere, so we don’t have double-voting. Two, ERIC has gotten access to federal databases such as the social security master death index, and shared those with member states. Since I took office, we have removed over 350,000 voters who have moved away, passed away, or been put away. We have 3.5 million registered voters, so that’s about 10 percent of the voter file, a massive proportion.
My goal here is not for you to direct me to stay in ERIC, or to quit. My goal here is to ask you to clearly authorize me in law to seek access to such information through other methods, such as direct agreements with federal agencies and with other state election offices. Unfortunately, ERIC has been politicized, and we need a plan B in order to get information from states that have quit their membership. Most of the ingress to and egress from Kentucky comes from and goes to our surrounding states, plus Florida and Texas. Florida, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana all have recently quit ERIC, or haven’t been members of ERIC, so I need a clearly authorized away to get information from them as I can’t get it now through ERIC.
None of my requests constitutes a major change in our election laws. I’m not a reactionary, nor a liberal; I’m a conservative. Conservatives welcome change, so long as it comes at a pace that society can process it. I’m proud of the reforms we’ve made, together, to our election process; I believe we should give our voters time to acclimate to these major changes before we make more. On the whole, I think we’re in a pretty good place. Thank you, and I welcome your questions and comments.