Bill Rolling Back Secretary Of State Powers Stalls In Committee

Mar 4, 2019

Efforts to rein in Kentucky’s secretary of state were derailed in committee Monday. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks during the 26th Annual Wendell Ford Dinner, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Louisville, Ky.
Credit AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Senate Bill 34 came in response to recent articles, including an investigative report by ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader, raising further questions about improper access to and use of the state voter rolls by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The measurer aimed to scale back a number of the high-profile Democrat's powers, including reducing her role on the State Board of Elections from a voting, presiding member to a non-voting member. While the original version would have limited her access to the voter rolls, a committee substitute would have made it a misdemeanor to alter or misuse the contents of the database.

Following a defeat in a House committee, Senator Damon Thayer had strong words for his colleagues.

"This is about Alison Lundergan Grimes and the fact that she's under a federal consent decree and three investigations," the Republican Senate leader said, before being cut off. "For those of you who voted no, it's now on your hands that the integrity of the voter rolls of this commonwealth are in question as we head into a major gubernatorial primary." 

Mary Sue Helm, Director of Administration and Elections in Grimes’ office, had argued the bill could paralyze election administration, weaken cybersecurity efforts, and place too much power with the governor.

In February, Grimes called for the release of all voter registration system searches. 

"These searches will reflect that my staff have always acted appropriately pursuant to my role as Kentucky's Secretary of State and Chief Election Official," she said. 

SB 34 had received a thumbs up in the GOP-controlled Senate.