From the Chair Representative Kenny Imes chairs the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Republicans took control of the Kentucky House after the 2016 elections for the first time in 96 years. He represents House District 5, which encompasses Calloway County and part of Trigg County in southwestern Kentucky. Imes spoke to The Canvass on March 14. Q: What is your overriding perspective when it comes to elections policy? A: We try to evaluate each bill on the merits and what it’s trying to accomplish. Talking about elections is talking about a whole gamut of issues from running elections to campaign finance reports. Q: What are some of the elections issues in Kentucky? A: We are trying to make voting more accessible for disabled voters by allowing them to apply for absentee ballots and go ahead and cast their vote there in the election office at the same time. We will be voting on that bill soon. In Kentucky, we have local option elections on allowing liquor sales—whether you go “wet” or “dry”—and current laws states those elections can’t be held on the same date as a regular election. One of my bills has been to make local option elections on regular election days, otherwise the petitioner could choose another date but would have to bear the cost of the election. Since January, we’ve had 15 local option elections. It costs per precinct about $1,800 to $2,000 for these elections. We had 52 local options last year, some countywide, some precincts, but that’s a lot of money for counties. I’ve also got a bill that I will be pushing next year to move all statewide elections to an even-numbered year. In a four-year cycle, it will save counties about $13.5 million and the state about $3.5 million. It will also help with voter fatigue and increase voter participation. We’re also trying to simplify our campaign finance process—if you’re running for city council or a local office and only expect to raise a minimal amount of money it doesn’t make sense for you to have to file multiple reports. By combining the three tiers into one threshold, it will make it easier on our election finance people. Our secretary of state wants early voting, but many our county clerks, especially rural clerks, don’t want it, but I expect we’ll address that during the interim session. Q: Are there any takeaways from the 2016 elections that have come up in the 2017 session? A: Constitutional amendments are always a big concern and we will address many of them in the interim session and the 2018 session. Reforming our campaign finance system is something that came up that we are addressing now. I want to have hearings on early voting as well so the public understands where we are. We’ll be looking at other ways to help disabled voter and overseas and military voters. We want to be as accommodating as we can while ensuring only eligible people are voting. Another area we may look at is improving our voter list through better intergovernmental relations so we don’t have voters on the rolls in two different states. Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to elections in Kentucky? A: I think systematically we are working toward what’s cost effective for the taxpayer, but also getting as many people involved as we can. That’s what I’m working towards. Whether they are Democrat, Republican or Independent, I want them to be voting. We want it to be as open, successful and encouraging as we can. In a recent local option election for a whole city only 30 people voted. We’ve got to get the word out and get people more engaged.