Bill adding constitutional ballot question to change Kentucky election years progresses

Published 1:57 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Kentuckians may have an extra question or two to decide on this year’s ballot.

Several constitutional amendments have been proposed, including one to align the gubernatorial and presidential election years in Kentucky.

Currently, Kentucky holds elections for governor and constitutional officers on odd-numbered years. For over a decade, Sen. Christian McDaniel has advocated for a change.

This year’s bill, Senate Bill 10, would move gubernatorial elections to presidential years beginning in 2032. The governor and constitutional officers elected in 2027 would serve one-time, five-year terms.

McDaniel said that the change would “dramatically increase” the turnout in a constitutional election year, with a higher number of voters motivated by the presidential race on the ballot.

It would also save the state $2 million and counties $15 million in election administration, he said.

He said that the average Kentucky voter would probably prefer elections every two out of four years as opposed to three out of four years.

“If you ask them, ‘Would you enjoy a year free from political ads interrupting the Kentucky basketball game, Monday Night football or whatever program they’re trying to enjoy during the time off and most importantly, during a time with your families?’ I think this constitutional amendment would probably pass pretty soundly.”

Wednesday, the Senate Committee on State & Local Government voted 7-1 in favor of the bill. Next, it will go to the Senate floor for several bill readings and a vote.

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, was the sole “no” vote.

She argued that when the framers initially made constitutional elections in odd-numbered years, it was because of a need to have an election solely focused on state issues, without “allowing national issues to infiltrate” the election.

“I think that the need for that has only increased over time in the 176 years since we’ve been doing it this way as opposed to decrease,” Chambers Armstrong said.

“Nowadays, with national division, with presidential elections lasting for years and eating up the airwaves, I think it’s really important that the people of Kentucky have space to focus on Kentucky issues.”

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, expressed his support for the bill. He said that Kentuckians aren’t interested in statewide races, based on low turnout.

McDaniel agreed.

“I would rather that 40% or 45% of Kentuckians focus on a larger number of issues than 18 or 20% of Kentuckians focus on a smaller number of issues,” he said. “It’s just a difference in philosophy.”