The measure, known as Senate Bill 5, is a proposed state constitutional amendment to move to even-numbered years the elections of statewide constitutional offices. In addition to the governor, those would include the campaigns for treasurer, auditor of public accounts, attorney general, secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture. SB 5 passed by a 31-4 vote.
Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said he sponsored SB 5 because, in part, it would save about $15 million in taxpayer money by consolidating the dates elections are held. As it stands now, Kentucky has three statewide elections each four-year cycle. Two of those elections follow the national cycle of congressional and presidential races in even years. Tucked between those are the races for statewide constitutional offices.
McDaniel explained that, if passed, the constitutional amendment would go into effect with the 2023 election which would give the governor elected that year a five-year term.
“It’s a good bill financially,” McDaniel said, adding similar measures had passed out of the chamber five prior times in the past decade. “Senate Bill 5 is certainly no stranger to this body.”
When voting for SB 5, Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, predicted the change could almost double voter participation in down-ballot races by aligning Kentucky’s election cycle with presidential elections. He noted that only 31 percent of Kentucky voters cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election compared to 60 percent the following year in the presidential election.
Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, explained her vote against SB 5. She said she feared aligning Kentucky’s election cycle with presidential elections would cause voters to attribute national issues to the state race.
“Kentucky needs to be allowed to focus on Kentucky issues and set aside the national fray ... that sometimes are not as relatable to the Commonwealth and its issues and its people,” she said.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, applauded the stated goals of SB 5 when voting for the bill. He added that if the constitution is ultimately amended, he hopes the savings would go toward expanding early voting or extending voting hours across the state.
“Kentucky is one of the three states in the country whose polls close at 6 p.m.,” McGarvey said.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Even if the General Assembly passed SB 5 this session, the proposed constitutional amendment would not be placed on the ballot to be decided upon by the people until 2020.