If you think there have been a lot of elections in Whitley County over the past year, then you are correct.
“We have set history in Whitley County. We have had six elections since November of last year,” Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz told the Williamsburg Kiwanis Club Thursday.
After the gubernatorial elections last November, there was a Dec. 20 special election to fill out the remaining term of state representative Dewayne Bunch. His wife, Regina Bunch, was the only candidate.
In February and March there were local alcohol option elections, first in Corbin and then Williamsburg.
In May, the primary election took place and this month there was the general election for president where half of Whitley County voters went to the polls to cast their ballots.
Another special election is coming soon.
On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Steve Beshear scheduled a Tuesday, Dec. 18 special election date to fill the unexpired 16th Senate District term of David Williams, who resigned recently to take an appointment as circuit judge.
“When a seat is vacated in Frankfort like that in a senatorial district, you have to nominate a candidate from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party,” Schwartz noted. “Those two then vie against each other.”
Schwartz, who has served as president of the Kentucky County Clerk’s Association for the past year, said that there was a bill that the county clerk’s association successfully advocated for this year that helps reduce costs during some special elections.
It allows for a limited number of polls to be set up if there is only one candidate on the ballot during a special election, like the one last December to replace Dewayne Bunch.
“When you set up an election for 36 precincts and it takes one vote to get that person you waste a lot of money,” Schwartz noted. “You waste over $40,000 just for an election for one person.”
Schwartz noted that one piece of good news she has for election weary folks is that there are no regularly scheduled elections next year in Kentucky.
There are countywide races in 2014 and people can start filing to run in those races next November.
Voter registration problems
If you have just recently registered to vote at some place besides the clerk’s office, then you might want to give the clerk’s office a call a few weeks later just to make sure all the paperwork got turned in to the proper officials.
Schwartz noted that nine agencies in Whitley County can register people to vote, but there is a lack of training at many of those agencies, which sometimes results in voter registration cards not being turned in.
“I have actually gone to the Secretary of State’s Office to ask for a one on one meeting,” Schwartz said. “The cards don’t get turned in from a lot of the agencies. If you ask them, they say, ‘well, nobody told me what to do with them.’”
Schwartz said that her office gets numerous reports from Frankfort every day and sometimes this includes 30 pages of incomplete voter registration that includes up to eight names per page.
“On Election Day, they think they are registered,” she said.
Schwartz said the problem is improving locally because her office has been able to build a personal relationship with people at other local agencies.
For instance, the health department mails its voter registration information on nearly a daily basis and someone at the food stamp office is now one of Schwartz’s voter precinct workers, she noted.
Precinct officers needed
Schwartz said that volunteers to be election officers are almost always needed, particularly Democratic election officers.
By law, each precinct is supposed to have two Democratic election officers and two Republican election officers, but Schwartz said there is a provision, which allows only one Democratic election officer in a precinct if enough Democrats aren’t available.
Democrats can be hard to find in Whitley County because Republicans out number Democrats by a nearly three to one margin. There are 6,628 registered Democrats in Whitley County, and 18,294 registered Republicans.
There are 26,178 total registered voters in Whitley County. Out of those, 13,080 people voted during last week’s presidential election or 50.3 percent. During the 2008 presidential election, 13,133 people voted.
Voter registration isn’t a perfect system.
“When they did the census, in some districts I have more registered voters than I do people,” Schwartz said. “This has happened in several counties. It is not only just us.”
Schwartz noted that one thing, which made voting lines longer at some precincts, was split ballots.
For instance, at the College Hill voting precinct during last week’s election, voters could have received one of five different ballots depending on where they lived.
“In that one precinct, you have the county school board, city school board, Williamsburg City Council and the county ballot,” she noted. “You have to determine where that voter lives to see what ballot that voter is going to get.”
Schwartz noted that college students are allowed to register to vote here after they have lived here for at least 30 days.
“Most of the college students – they are going to be here for four years plus – will go ahead and register to vote here,” she said. “In a city race, they could swing a race.”