Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes clashed with the State Board of Elections on Tuesday after revelations that the board had placed more than 165,000 people on an “inactive list” in the state’s voter registration system.
Representatives from the State Board of Elections say people on the “inactive list” will be removed from the voter rolls if they don’t update their registrations or vote in the next two federal elections.
But they will still be able to vote during the upcoming November elections when Kentuckians will weigh in on races for governor, attorney general and other statewide offices.
Grimes, a Democrat and the state’s chief election officer, accused the board of improperly flagging voters for removal.
“The problem is not necessarily what happens to these individuals today, but what we are setting up to improperly happen to these individuals once two federal elections pass,” Grimes said. “Without the proper knowledge of people even realizing that they’ve been marked inactive, they could be completely removed from our voter registration list.”
Grimes presented several examples in which people who had voted in recent elections but had still been added to the “inactive list.”
On Monday, the Kentucky Democratic Party said it became aware of the list after noticing that the state’s voter registration numbers declined from 3,426,395 voters to 3,259,282 voters between June and July — a difference of 167,113.
Earlier this summer, the State Board of Elections mailed out notices to 250,000 people who haven’t voted in recent elections, saying that they would be removed from the state’s voter registration rolls if they don’t update their current address or vote in the 2020 or 2022 elections.
Board chair Joshua Branscum said that the board moved people onto the “inactive list” because the state is federally mandated to “clean up the rosters.”
“The most important thing is for everyone to realize that they are still eligible to vote even if they’re on a supplementary list, a secondary list of some sort, you still have the right to vote,” Branscum said after the meeting.
“You can go vote. And if you go and you’re on that list, those are just people that have information that needs to be updated in the system. They will be able to do that and they will be able to continue to vote.”
Kentucky has been ordered to “clean” its voter registration list as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.
During a meeting of the State Board of Elections on Tuesday, Grimes accused the board’s staff of making changes to the voter registration system “in the dark of night.”
Grimes blamed the board’s actions on a lack of oversight after the legislature passed a bill removing her from being chair of the State Board of Elections earlier this year.
“This is what was predicted when a conservative Republican Party majority bill was pushed, for the first time ever removing the chief election official from overseeing a board which maintains a system that I am federally charged to create and maintain,” Grimes said.
The measure limiting Grimes’ powers came after after two employees at the State Board of Elections accused her of improperly accessing the voter registration system. Grimes unsuccessfully sued to try and block the law from going into effect.
Grimes is term-limited and can’t run for secretary of state again this year
Kentuckians can register to vote or update their registrations at GoVoteKy.com