FRANKFORT — A measure that would allow county clerks to open a limited number of polling places in uncontested special elections passed a House committee Tuesday and is now headed to the full House for a vote.
Also Tuesday, the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs passed a bill that would require candidates for statewide elected office to file campaign finance reports electronically.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told the committee Tuesday that a recent special election in Whitley and Laurel Counties for former Rep. Dewayne Bunch's seat cost a total of $47,000. Voter turnout in the uncontested special election was less than 2 percent in Whitley County and 1 percent in Laurel County.
Regina Bunch, Dewayne Bunch's wife, ran unopposed in the election. After reimbursement from the state, the special election cost Whitley County $33,000. It cost Laurel County $6,000, Grimes said.
House Bill 293 would allow local county boards of elections to choose a limited number of polling places to open — such as the county courthouse — in uncontested special elections, which would dramatically cut costs, Grimes said. In the Bunch election, the county clerks were required to open the polls in 36 precincts.
The measure passed the panel unanimously.
House Bill 90 would require all candidates for statewide office to file campaign finance reports electronically. Currently, candidates can file their campaign finance reports on paper or electronically. To make paper reports available online, the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance must manually input data into a computer system, said Emily Dennis, general counsel for the registry.
The bill applies only to those seeking statewide office and does not include legislative races, said Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, who ran for lieutenant governor with Louisville businessman Phil Moffett in the May Republican primary, questioned whether the registry could pick up some of the expenses related to filing electronically.
It can costs campaigns as much as $320 to file electronically. Harmon said his campaign was run on a shoestring budget and did not have much additional money.
Cherry said some campaigns for governor and other statewide offices have millions of dollars in campaign funds. It wouldn't be fair to have taxpayers pick up the tab for those candidates, he said.
Dennis said the registry did not have money to pay for the software needed by candidates.
The measure now heads to the full House for a vote.