FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — More than 150,000 registered Kentucky voters were improperly placed on an "inactive list" that could jeopardize their right to vote in November, the state Democratic Party said Monday.
In a letter to the State Board of Elections, Democratic chairman Ben Self demanded that the board immediately reactivate those registrations. The claims come less than two months before Kentuckians will vote for governor and other statewide constitutional offices.
Voters placed on the "inactive list" are still eligible to vote, and the list appears to include tens of thousands of registered Democrats and Republicans, Democratic officials said. But Self wrote in his letter that "the improper maintenance of a list of 'inactive voters' will deny registered Kentucky voters who are entitled to vote in the upcoming election the right to do so."
A failure to reactive their registrations will "cause immediate and irreparable harm to the KDP (Kentucky Democratic Party), candidates for office, and most importantly, the public," he said.
Jared Dearing, executive director of the elections board, responded that no voters on the inactive list have been removed from the voter registration database.
The elections board is under a federal consent decree requiring the board to implement a mailing process to reach out to voters who have not participated in the two previous federal election cycles or have not updated their voter information in the same period, Dearing said.
"Any registered and eligible voter on the inactive list is still fully qualified to vote in the upcoming election," Dearing said in a statement. "The board, while complying with the federal consent decree, has taken multiple steps to engage with individuals on this list, including two separate mailings requesting they update their voter information."
Dearing said people concerned about being on the inactive list can log into govoteKY.com to verify their voter information is up to date.
The elections board has a previously scheduled meeting Tuesday. The issue raised by the state Democratic Party could come up for discussion at the meeting, Dearing said.
Self said if action isn't taken, the state party will consider legal options.
Self said the party became aware of the "inactive list" after requesting voter registration data last month. Based on the information provided by the elections board, it appeared that registered voters had been removed from the file when compared to data provided in April, Self said.
In April, the voter registration data received by KDP contained 3,421,795 registered Kentucky voters, Self's letter said. Last month, the registration data contained 3,259,076 registered voters — a difference of 162,719 voters, he said. Tens of thousands of both Republicans and Democrats appear to have had their voter registrations deactivated as a result, the KDP said.
The state party recently said it submitted an open records request for "any voters marked 'inactive'" in the current voter file. A reply from the elections board included a list of 165,709 voters who must update their information within two federal election cycles.
KDP noted that under Kentucky law, registered voters aren't eligible to be placed on an "inactive list" until two general elections for federal office elapsed since the date of notice.
As a result, the earliest date in which those voters could be placed on an "inactive list" would be November 2022, the state party said.
"The KDP is therefore demanding that SBE halt their 'inactive list' policy and immediately reactive voter registrations in compliance with state law," Self's letter said.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Monday that she's "appalled" by the disenfranchising of voters and criticized the elections board's "unlawful actions."
Grimes, a Democrat, said in a statement that "this willful mismanagement cannot be tolerated and demonstrates a continued lack of oversight by the board to the detriment of Kentucky voters and election integrity."
Grimes has condemned a new state law, enacted by the Republican-dominated legislature, that removed the secretary of state as chairman and a voting member of the elections board. Grimes has said she now has no say over the board's day-to-day operations.
The new law came after two employees at the elections board accused Grimes of wielding excessive power over the board and using her access to the voter database for political purposes. Grimes denies the allegations, saying her office followed the law "at all times."