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County Clerks don't choose Grimes in power struggle over State Board of Elections

September 27,2018 22:32

The Kentucky County Clerks Association has picked a side in the ongoing power struggle for control of the State Board of Elections. In a letter sent to the State Board of Elections and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes Wednesday night, the ...

The Kentucky County Clerks Association has waded into the ongoing power struggle for control of the State Board of Elections.
In a letter sent to the State Board of Elections Wednesday night, the clerks’ association affirmed its support for elections board Executive Director Jared Dearing and Associate Executive Director Jennifer Scutchfield. The letter did not mention Grimes.
At a Sept. 20 meeting, the association voted unanimously “to publicly express its confidence” in Dearing and Scutchfield, according to the letter.
“It is the opinion of the KCCA that both Mr. Dearing and Ms. Scutchfield have performed their duties in exemplary fashion,” the members of the association wrote.


“The most critical roles that Mr. Dearing and Mrs. Scutchfield play in the election process is the efficient and expedient communication between the county clerk’s and the SBE staff during election season,” the letter says. “With the November 6th election quickly approaching, we have concerns that recent Board administrative decisions may result in unintended consequences for Kentucky elections.”
Dearing, a Democrat, sent the State Board of Elections spiraling into chaos in August when he became the second staffer in as many years to accuse Grimes, also a Democrat, of overstepping her authority as secretary of state and Kentucky’s chief elections officer.
During a September meeting of the State Board of Elections, Dearing said he had been “effectively terminated” after he brought his complaints about Grimes to the elections board, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Personnel Board.
Grimes, who is chairwoman of the elections board, has called the allegations political and said she did nothing wrong. She has often pointed to a resolution that “reaffirmed” her role as chief elections officer and chairwoman of the state board of elections to rebut the complaints.
“Secretary Grimes works closely with Kentucky’s county boards of elections, which include our county clerks, and appreciates their confidence in the work of the State Board of Elections,” said Bradford Queen, Grimes’ communication director. “A successful election is not the result of one person, but rather the result of the Secretary of State, the State Board of Elections, 120 county boards of elections and 15,000+ precinct election officers working together.”
Don Blevins, the Fayette County Clerk, said it’s rare for the non-partisan clerks’ association to get involved in these sorts of situations.
“For the group as a whole to issue a letter on this issue speaks to the gravity of the situation,” Blevins said.
He said the discussions of the group mostly focused on staying out of the fray while making sure the board of elections is being run smoothly.
Chris Waugh, the president of the clerks’ association, said the group wasn’t trying to take a side in the battle between Dearing and Grimes.
“I don’t want this to be the focus point, that we’re on one side or the other,” Waugh said. “Because we all have to work together.”
The clerks traditionally work closely with State Board of Elections staff in order to run Kentucky’s elections. This year, several counties will be using electronic poll books for the first time and it has been Dearing’s responsibility to help the clerks use them.
Blevins said he feels like Grimes is trying to perform dual roles: secretary of state and executive director of the elections board.
“I would like to see the State Board of Elections rescind the resolution and get back to the old way of doing it,” Blevins said.

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