Choose Kentucky’s Governor in Presidential Election Years? Senate Committee Says Yes.

Kentucky’s governor and other statewide constitutional officers would be elected in the same year as presidential elections under a bill approved Wednesday in a state Senate committee.

Without a change, statewide constitutional officers—including the secretary of state, state auditor and others—would be next up for election in 2015. 

Under Senate Bill 55, those elections would move to 2016.

Those elected positions  will keep four-year terms, sticking with the presidential cycle. To do this, the bill extend the terms of the current officeholders by one year until the end of 2016.

The move would require a constitutional amendment—meaning that a statewide referendum would be needed after the General Assembly passed the bill. Which doesn’t seem likely. The bill now moves to the Senate floor after Wednesday’s approval from the senate State and Local Government Committee.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Latonia Republican who is the bill’s sponsor, said  a reasoning for pushing the measure is to create savings for local county clerks.

“It will save counties approximately $3,491 per precinct, with results in a net savings to our counties of over $12 million, which exists currently as something of a unfunded mandate from the state to those counties,” he said.

Sen. Damon Thayer, the Republican floor leader from Georgetown,  said moving state constitutional officers’ elections to presidential election years would increase voter participation. He cited low voter turnout in those off-year elections. 

In 2011—the last gubernatorial election year—28.6 percent of registered voters made it to polls. Last year—in a presidential cycle—turnout was 59.7 percent.

“From a point of civic engagement, this is absolutely the right step,” Thayer said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said  his chamber has no interest in the changes. 

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