It’s 49 days until Election Day and the Kentucky State Board of Elections is mired in chaos. At issue is a power struggle between the staff of the State Board of Elections and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes over control of Kentucky’s election system. Grimes, a Democrat, argues that her role as chairwoman of the board of elections requires her staff to have access to Kentucky’s voter registration database and oversight of the day-to-day operations of the State Board of Elections. Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, filed a complaint last month with the board, the executive branch ethics commission and the state personnel board, alleging Grimes had overstepped her authority by eliminating the independence of the board’s staff, asking her staffers to access the voter database, and creating a hostile work environment.
That power struggle came to a head Tuesday, as Dearing and Grimes aired their complaints in a public forum before the board went into a closed session to discuss cyber-security and personnel matters. When the board came back into public session about three hours later, Dearing still had a job and two members were assigned to a cyber-security task force.
There are two central issues at play: Grimes’ day-to-day oversight of the State Board of Elections staff and her staff’s access to the voter registration database. The database contains voters’ names and addresses, county code, precinct code, gender, party affiliation, zip code, date of birth, date of registration, and five-year voting history.
There are a couple of ways people can access that system. The public has the ability to search for a person’s party affiliation and voting precinct if they can supply a first name, last name and date of birth. A political party or candidate can also pay for a snapshot of the voter registration system at a given time.