A bipartisan board that oversees Kentucky's elections has unanimously voted to affirm the secretary of state's role as Kentucky's chief election officer following allegations she abused her authority for political purposes.
In the past year, two executive directors of the Kentucky State Board of Elections — one Republican and one Democrat — have accused Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes of misusing the state's database of registered voters. The board voted to fire the Republican executive director, Matthew Selph, last year. He is now suing the board.
The board replaced Selph with Jared Dearing, a Democrat. Monday, Dearing sent a scathing letter to the board detailing how Grimes had asked him to do things that were unethical and "potentially illegal." He said Grimes retaliated when he refused, harassing him "to a point that is now affecting the security and safety of the Commonwealth's election systems."
Tuesday morning, Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown called for a federal investigation.
"For the second time in less than one year, ... bipartisan leaders of the State Board of Elections have filed an ethics complaint against Secretary Grimes for abuse of power," Brown said. "Kentuckians deserve to know their elections are being conducted fairly and without bias."
Grimes called a special meeting of the board on Tuesday. The six-member board is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, all appointed by the governor from a list of names given to him by the respective political parties. Grimes is the chairwoman and only votes to break a tie.
Four members, two Democrats and two Republicans, attended Tuesday's meeting. They met privately for more than three hours, emerging at about 6:30 p.m. to vote on a resolution affirming Grimes is in charge of the board's day-to-day operations, including the executive director.
Dearing declined to comment. He will keep his job for now. But Grimes says his performance had been "under review." She called his allegations "bizarre" and said she "vigorously" disputes them, hinting they could be politically motivated because she is a potential candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for re-election next year.
"Our governor announced his intention to run for re-election Saturday and on Monday I had bizarre and baseless claims that are being sent to the board over email and presented to the press," she said.