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Ky. counties could save $20 million shifting elections to even-numbered years

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, presents Senate Bill 10 during the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
LRC Public Information
Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, presents Senate Bill 10 during the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

A new analysis found a bill to move Kentucky’s odd-year elections – including races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state — would save local governments $20 million.

The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission has revised its cost estimate for the amount counties would save if the state moved odd-year elections.

The cost savings for Senate Bill 10 increased from the original $13.5 million savings for counties and local governments to an estimated $20 million. The state savings estimate remains the same at about $1.9 million.

The bill to move Kentucky’s off-year elections to the often better-attended presidential years passed the state Senate last Wednesday. The Legislative Research Commission updated the cost estimates last week.

This is the ninth time the bill sponsor Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel from Ryland Heights has filed the legislation. Generally, turnout in presidential years is significantly higher, which McDaniel cited as a big benefit of the bill.

It has consistently found success in the Senate – despite fervent opposition from primarily Democrats – but has so far failed to progress in the House. McDaniel said he hopes the new analysis will provide an extra boost to his colleagues in the other chamber.

“I hope this updated fiscal analysis will further compel my friends in the state House to push the measure over the finish line and put the question before Kentucky voters for them to ultimately decide,” McDaniel said in a statement.

If SB10 made it through the House with three-fifths of members voting in support, the proposed amendment to the state Constitution would then be put on the ballot in November. This is how the change would appear on the ballot:

“Are you in favor of amending Section 95 of the state Constitution to hold the election of all statewide constitutional officers in even-numbered years after the November 2027 election?”

Kentucky is one of only five states that elect their governors between national races. According to opponents, off-year elections ensure Kentuckians can focus solely on state politics when electing their governor. Opposing lawmakers also argued that having a longer ballot would mean less attention paid to individuals rather than parties.

Regardless of the opposition, the bill passed the Senate, 26-9. It now moves over to the House for consideration. McDaniel argues the costs of off-year elections are higher than the benefits. He also said he believes a majority of Kentuckians would appreciate one less election year, which he claims would lead to a year without political ads and less so-called “voter fatigue.”

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.