More than 1,300 public employees in Kentucky claimed four hours of paid leave to vote in two recent elections but were not entitled to the benefit, costing taxpayers more than $102,000, state Auditor Mike Harmon said Tuesday.
In a news release, Harmon said his office examined the use of voting leave for public employees during the 2016 primary election and the 2015 general election. As many as 1,329 public employees who claimed four hours of paid election leave in those two elections weren’t entitled to it, Harmon said.
Of that total, 1,176 took paid election leave, but records indicate that they didn’t vote in one or both elections examined, he said. The remaining workers took paid leave for other election duties, such as precinct worker training, that they didn’t complete, Harmon found.
“Our report and the resulting findings regarding use of election leave should be troubling not only to taxpayers, but to those who have fought for the right to allow all of us the freedom to choose our leaders,” he said.
The report will be forwarded to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the state Personnel Cabinet for further investigation and possible disciplinary action.
Another finding in Harmon’s report found multiple discrepancies in Kentucky’s Voter Registration System.
The problems identified included one state employee who appeared in the county election precinct book twice in the same election but didn’t receive credit for casting a ballot.
The report also found that Social Security numbers in the registration system aren’t being validated or used consistently.
Auditors also found two public employees who were registered to vote in two counties, one in Harlan and Fayette and the other in Morgan and Fayette, during the 2015 general election.
“It is essential to keep our election registration system in Kentucky accurate and avoid any issues which could give the appearance of improprieties with voting records,” Harmon said.
He encouraged the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and others who oversee election rolls “to review this finding carefully, and to take the actions necessary to eliminate errors our auditors uncovered.”
The auditor’s report included a Nov. 30 response to the audit from Mary Sue Helm, interim executive director of the state elections board.
Helm said the board appreciates Harmon’s recommendations and is reviewing them for possible action.
Helm said Grimes, the state’s top election official, has previously raised some of the audit’s recommendations.
Helm also said that until last year, Kentucky’s voter registration data were entirely based on paper registration, which caused some inaccuracies as county clerks had to decipher handwriting and make no errors when putting information into the system.
“Online voter registration reduces these errors and is already leading to more accurate Kentucky records,” Helm said.
This is the third time the state auditor’s office has conducted an election leave report, and the first since 2007.
The complete report is available at Auditor.ky.gov.