Forget about the "inactive" list on which 1,253 Pulaski County registered voters and about 175,000 registered voters in Kentucky were placed by the State Board of Elections.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Wingate at 3:30 p.m. Monday granted injunctive relief in a lawsuit filed last week by the Kentucky Democratic Party. In other words, The court agreed with the Democratic Party and directed the State Board of Elections to return "inactive" voters to the Master Voter Roll prior to the November 5 General Election.
The "inactive" voters' list was apparently done by the State Board of Election's staff and had not been voted on by the board. Jennifer Scutchfield, assistant director of the State Board of Elections, told the Commonwealth Journal the reason 1,253 Pulaski County registered voters and about 175,000 across the state were put in an "inactive" list is two mailings to their addresses were not returned.
Had you shown up at your voting place on November 5 and found you were on the "inactive" list you would have been asked to step aside. A precinct officer would have called the county clerk's office to make sure you are a registered voter. Then, if you are registered, you would have been asked to fill out an "Oath of Voter" card and voter registration card before voting. The circuit judge's "injunctive relief" does away with the "inactive" list and puts everything back as it was before.
Said Judge Wingate: " ... it is the court's understanding that the process currently being used by the State Board of Elections has not been voted on, and in fact will come for a vote before the Board on Tuesday, October 15, 2019. The board was scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
As federal law requires any changes to the voter list to happen 90 days prior to an election, it is the court's findings that the best practice to ensure a just and fair election is to, for the time being, return to the status quo and utilize one Master Voter List and place an asterisk by the necessary names of voters (on the "inactive" list) to alert poll workers to confirm voters' address.
The use of "Oath of Voter" cards is unnecessary and has a strong chilling effect on voters in the commonwealth," Judge Wingate said. "Oath of Voter" cards state the card shall be delivered by the county clerk to the commonwealth's attorney for investigation. That statement alone, Judge Wingate said, creates a chilling effect as it could cause eligible voters to be apprehensive about signing the card.
Judge Wingate said placing an asterisk beside the names of the 175,000 voters on the "inactive" list could easily be generated. He directed the State Board of Elections to notify county clerks and poll workers to make any needed training corrections.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes responded to the court ruling: "The court agreed and said loudly that accurate voter rolls should not come at the expense of rights of our voters," said Grimes. "I agree and am grateful for the court's assistance in ordering the Board to do what I demanded last month."
Mark Vaught, election coordinator for Pulaski County, said early Tuesday he has not been informed of Judge Wingate's ruling. However, he suggested the state would make any changes (applying asterisks by "inactive" voters' names) in e-poll books and it will not change how the county conducts the General Election.
Pulaski County will use electronic polling books (e-poll books) at all 56 precincts during the November 5 General Election. E-poll books will replace traditional roster books voters sign at the precinct before voting. However, County Clerk Linda Burnett has said traditional roster books will be at each precinct (in case of a problem, with an e-poll book).
Becca Shepherd, Election Department manager for Pulaski County, said at 9 a.m. Tuesday the county clerk's office had received no information about the court's ruling from the State Board of Elections. Burnett, at 10:30 a.m. agreed; " ... nothing yet from the state board." The Commonwealth Journal obtained a copy of Judge Wingate's ruling from a wed address in a news release from Secretary of State Grimes' office.
The Commonwealth Journal in its October 10 edition published names of the 1,253 "inactive" voters. On Sunday, the newspaper suggested editorially the action by the staff of the State Board of Election was "dumb." The paper said changes of that magnitude in the voters' list should not have been done ahead of a normally busy gubernatorial election but such action should have waited until 2021 when there are no scheduled elections in Kentucky.