County clerks across the state have lobbied Kentucky legislature to amend KRS 242.030 to help alleviate the cost of county-wide, local-option elections. A previous bill would've helped by requiring the petitioners calling for a vote on county-wide ...
ASHLAND Boyd County will spend $80,000 for a one-question â€œwetâ€ election on packaged alcohol sales â€” three months before it spends another $90,000 on the presidential election.Kentucky law bars counties across the state from holding local-option elections on the same day as primary and general elections, if the special election is county wide.â€œThatâ€™s so archaic,â€ said Boyd County Judge-Executive Steve Towler. â€œItâ€™s utterly ridiculous to have a special election for one question.â€ Â
County clerks across the state have lobbied Kentucky legislature to amend KRS 242.030 to help alleviate the cost of county-wide, local-option elections. A previous bill, for instance, wouldâ€™ve helped by requiring the petitioners calling for a vote on county-wide alcohol sales to cover part of the cost.House Bill 621, the most recent attempt to alter the statute, was halted in the state Senate last March. The bill wouldâ€™ve permitted the placement of the local-option question on ballots in the countyâ€™s next primary or regular election, among other changes.â€œIt also wouldâ€™ve allowed the county to recoup the cost of the election by prorating the amount of money that went into the county through license sales,â€ said Leslie County Clerk James Lewis, the chair of the state County Clerks Association election committee.In 2016 alone, Kentucky counties have held 24 local-option elections, with nine more scheduled.Lewis said a survey issued by county clerks found the cost of holding elections in Kentucky is about $1,200 per precinct.Expenses for elections include: rental of polling places, paying poll workers, advertising, absentee ballot collection, election day supplies and the use of voting machines.Â â€œWe have to do the same amount of work as we do in regular elections,â€ said Lawrence County Clerk Chris Jobe. â€œIf legislators would look at the shape county budgets are in right now and pass legislation, it would help everyone all around.â€State Rep. Jill York (R-Grayson) said sheâ€™s â€œquite aware of the burdenâ€ placed on counties and voters.â€œAll of our counties at this point in time are facing budgetary considerations,â€ said York. â€œAllowing our citizens to weigh in on these matters comes with costs.â€The state representative said finding a solution to the clerksâ€™ concern is prudent. She suggested previous requests by clerks â€” like aligning special election days with open poll dates or asking proponents of the vote to consider sharing the cost â€” should be taken under closer consideration.Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) said the statute keeping local-option questions off regular and primary ballots is more about alcohol sales, which she believes is a â€œpretty volatileâ€ issue and could be why the election statute remains the same.Â
â€œHistorically, alcohol in Kentucky is a divisive and emotional topic for both sides,â€ said Webb. â€œYou didnâ€™t want either side to unduly influence the elections. â€¦ But as Kentucky has become wetter and moister, that mentality has dissolved a bit.â€Lewis echoed Webbâ€™s analysis. In his years of advocating for legislation with the County Clerks Association, the clerk said heâ€™s noticed a common thread in the responses from public officials.â€œThe response Iâ€™ve probably heard the most is that members of the General Assembly donâ€™t like alcohol sales on the regular ballot because itâ€™s an emotional issue for both sides,â€ Lewis said. â€œItâ€™s hard for me to understand that reason. Itâ€™s an economic responsibility to place these questions on the ballot to minimize costs.â€The question between â€œwetâ€ versus â€œdryâ€ or â€œmoistâ€ is appearing on ballots across the state at a rapid pace. Since 2014, 23 counties and cities have voted in favor of new or expanded alcohol sales, according to the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.A â€œmoistâ€ Boyd County could join the list of â€œwetâ€ counties and cities on Aug. 23.Boyd County Clerk Debbie Jones and the county election board have a few weeks to prepare for the $80,000 election, then a few months to prepare another in November.Â (606) 326-2651 | firstname.lastname@example.org