‘A ship without a captain.’ Grimes unloads on the Kentucky State Board of Elections.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes noticed discrepancies in official election results Tuesday; those mistakes were corrected Wednesday and Thursday; and on Friday the Kentucky State Board of Elections officially voted to certify the results of May’s primary election.
“It is a human system, humans can make errors, but as long as there is a process in place where we can identify those errors, work together as a group in partnership, we can move forward to certify our elections in an appropriate manner,” said Jared Dearing, the executive director of the State Board of Elections. “This is what that process looks like.”
The vote came the day after Grimes held a press conference issuing a “vote of no confidence” in the State Board of Elections, saying voters should be concerned about the State Board of Elections and arguing that new legislation that stripped her of her role as the chairwoman of the board helped lead to a number of discrepancies in official results presented to the board. The board did not certify any election results with errors.
“Right now, at the State Board of Elections we have a ship without a captain, we have a staff without a boss,” Grimes said. She did not attend the meeting Friday because of scheduling conflicts.
In what was at times a jovial meeting Friday, the members of the Board of Elections rebuffed Grimes’ concerns. George Russell, a Democratic member who used to be the executive director of the state board of elections, said mistakes happen every year and indicated it was just part of the process.
“For over 20 years I’ve been looking at the election results for counties, this is not unusual,” Russell said. “The last 20 years, something like this has occurred every election and the state board of elections is responsible for counting the votes. After working 14 hours, many typos occur and that’s the whole process of checking the procedures out.”
Russell has largely been in Grimes’ corner as she has pushed back against a law that stripped her authority over the state board of elections and made her a non-voting member of the board. He wrote a letter supporting Grimes that she then used in her lawsuit against the bill.
But even as Grimes has argued that the board needs her at the helm, members made light of the severity of her claims.
“This isn’t any different,” former Democratic congressman Ben Chandler said after another member praised the staff for their hard work. “The only difference this time is they got a little publicity for it.”
In a prepared statement for the meeting, Dearing said normally the Secretary of State’s office and State Board of Elections staff would have worked together to clear up any issues. He publicly apologized to the clerks of two counties where the State Board of Elections made transcription errors on their vote totals.
But he was also critical of Grimes, saying she could have handled the situation differently.
“Having identified these issues, the secretary waited until certification day to needlessly and very publicly call the counties to task when a simple phone call a week earlier would have sufficed to rectify any outstanding issues,” Dearing said.
Grimes did not mention the county clerks during her press conference Thursday, instead laying the blame at the feet of the State Board of Elections and it’s chairman Josh Branscum, R-Russell Springs.
On Friday, Branscum was asked whether the process worked properly.
“Yes,” he said.