Boyd County will spend $80,000 for a one-question “wet” election on packaged alcohol sales — 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. “That’s so archaic,” said Boyd County Judge-Executive Steve Towler. “It’s utterly ridiculous to have a special election for one question.” 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, would’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 last March.
The bill would’ve permitted the placement of the local-option question on ballots in the county’s next primary or regular election, among other changes. “It also would’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,” 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. “We have to do the same amount of work as we do in regular elections,” said Lawrence County Clerk Chris Jobe. “If legislators would look at the shape county budgets are in right now and pass legislation, it would help everyone all around.”