In Kentucky, 38 counties have more voters than voting-age residents

November 23, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky still has significant issues with the accuracy of its voter rolls a decade after the U.S. Department of Justice warned that many counties in the state had more registered voters than people of voting age.

A review by Kentucky Today found that 38 of Kentucky’s 120 counties still have more people registered to vote than they have residents 18 and older.

The discrepancies, identified by comparing the latest voter rolls with population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, were found across the state, popping up in both urban and rural counties, the online newspaper found.

Trey Grayson, former director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, acknowledged the constant battle all states face to keep voter rolls up to date by removing people who have died, been convicted of felonies, or moved out of state.

“We live in a very mobile society with people moving from state to state all the time,” said Grayson, a former Kentucky secretary of state. “Thus, it’s not uncommon for voters to be registered in more than one state at a time but with no intention of voting in their states of former residence.”

Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown said the decision to remove ineligible voters from the rolls is made at the state level, not by county clerks.

“County clerks are told who to purge, or take off the voter rolls,” Brown said. “We take the directive from the State Board of Elections and the secretary of state.”

The exception to that, Brown said, is when voters move to other counties within Kentucky and obtain new drivers licenses. In those cases, provisions of the motor-voter law alerts county clerks to remove specific voters.

The issue of purging voters has proven contentious across the country, often ending up in the courts. Typically, one side claims purges are necessary to protect the integrity of voter rolls. The other side claims purges tend to disproportionately remove minority voters and the poor.

The difficulty of maintaining accurate lists of eligible voters isn’t new. In fact, former President Barack Obama appointed a bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which recommended improving the accuracy of voter rolls by crosschecking registrations between states.

Bradford Queen, spokesman for the Kentucky secretary of state, said his office works hard to keep voter rolls up to date. He said 48,201 people were removed from the voter rolls last year and another 110,980 in 2015.

Voter roll issues aren’t limited to Kentucky, and neither are discrepancies between voter rolls and population.

“But it’s very important to note that this census data is an estimate and voter rolls are not,” Queen said. “Kentucky does not conduct the census, and we have doubts about its accuracy.”

The Pew Center on the States found in 2012 that the nation’s voter registration system was “plagued with errors and inefficiencies that waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”

The review found that approximately 24 million voter registrations across the country were no longer valid or significantly inaccurate, that more than 1.8 million dead people were still listed as voters, and that about 2.7 million people have registrations in more than one state.

Since then, the Pew Center said, state election officials have worked to upgrade voter registration. Some 40 states, including Kentucky, now allow online voter registration to eliminate inefficient paper systems. Twenty states are using the Electronic Registration Information Center, which alerts election officials to voter information that may be out of date.

Kentucky is among about 30 states that participate in what’s known as the Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which helps to identify who may be registered to vote in more than one state.

“About 10 years ago, when I was secretary of state, the Department of Justice notified the State Board of Elections that several Kentucky counties appeared to have more registered voters than voting eligible adults,” Grayson said.

As a result, Grayson said his office attempted to make contact with all registered voters in the identified counties to try to confirm their residency.

Standard practice in Kentucky is to attempt to reach registered voters who haven’t voted in consecutive presidential races to try to identify those who have moved away. The state also crosschecks names on voter rolls with death records from the Kentucky’s office of Vital Statistics.

“Sometimes family members would let us know that a person moved to another state,” Grayson said. “Other times, the post office sent back our mailing, marking it return to sender.”

Anderson 16,727 voting-age residents, 17,796 voters

Bath 9,184 voting-age residents, 9,240 voters

Boyd 38,139 voting-age residents, 39,345 voters

Breathitt 10,651 voting-age residents, 11,657 voters

Caldwell 9,837 voting-age residents, 10,103 voters

Carlisle 3,803 voting-age residents, 4,034 voters

Clark 27,679 voting-age residents, 28,253 voters

Cumberland 5,291 voting-age residents, 5,387 voters

Floyd 29,405 voting-age residents, 30,395 voters

Fulton 4,905 voting-age residents, 5,472 voters

Green 8,688 voting-age residents, 8,754 voters

Greenup 28,201 voting-age residents, 29,114 voters

Hardin 80,106 voting-age residents, 80,715 voters

Henry 11,913 voting-age residents 11,921 voters

Hickman 3,712 voting-age residents 3,734 voters

Jessamine 39,156 voting-age residents 39,348 voters

Kenton 124,939 voting-age residents 128,544 voters

Laurel 46,508 voting-age residents 46,275 voters

Lawrence 12,072 voting-age residents 12,459 voters

Leslie 8,388 voting-age residents 8,543 voters

Livingston 7,396 voting-age residents 7,637 voters

McCracken 50,817 voting-age residents 53,771 voters

Magoffin 9,882 voting-age residents 10,000 voters

Marshall 24,692 voting-age residents 25,537 voters

Menifee 5,087 voting-age residents 5,363 voters

Mercer 16,632 voting-age residents 17,558 voters

Monroe 8,247 voting-age residents 8,574 voters

Oldham 48,234 voting-age residents 50,526 voters

Owsley 3,507 voting-age residents 3,565 voters

Pike 48,726 voting-age residents 49,111 voters

Powell 9,360 voting-age residents 9,835 voters

Robertson 1,723 voting-age residents 1,735 voters

Russell 13,710 voting-age residents 14,026 voters

Spencer 13,687 voting-age residents 14,268 voters

Trigg 11,172 voting-age residents 11,681 voters

Trimble 6,762 voting-age residents 7,200 voters

Whitley 27,212 voting-age residents 26,900 voters

Wolfe 5,556 voting-age residents 5,622 voters

Woodford 20,030 voting-age residents 20,561 voters