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A Power Grab in Kentucky Sparks a Revolt

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, left, and Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, during an emergency meeting of the SBE on Aug. 28, 2018, soon after Dearing filed a complaint against Grimes describing her office’s increasing power over the board. Photo: Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expanded her sway over Kentucky’s election process with audacity, a willingness to fight — and a board that didn’t appear to be paying close attention. But the conflict isn’t over.

The September 2018 meeting of the Kentucky State Board of Elections was strikingly contentious. There was shouting, cross-talk and threats to eject staff — all playing out in a public forum in front of TV cameras.

But the most unusual moment, perhaps, was this: Two board members moved to rescind the votes they had cast at the previous meeting, only three weeks before. They claimed that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose position also makes her chairwoman of the State Board of Elections, or SBE, had essentially misled them into granting her unprecedented day-to-day power over the SBE. The board members’ efforts to void the resolution failed. Grimes cast the deciding vote.

Today, Grimes wields that new power over the SBE — and she’s facing a revolt by some staff as well as a loss of trust from many of the county clerks who administer elections, according to interviews with more than 30 people involved in the election-administration process, as well as documents and emails. “Alison has just got so much more access to things than any other secretary of state I’ve known,” said Julie Griggs, the clerk of McCracken County, who has worked in that office for 30 years. (Like Grimes, Griggs is a Democrat.) “It’s too much control for one person to have.”

Tension between Grimes’ office and the SBE has “turned our office upside down,” longtime SBE employee Sheila Walker wrote in an email to the board in August, adding that the agency had “never experienced anything like this in past years.”

Meanwhile, Grimes has slowed the process of cleaning the state’s voter rolls. That could put Kentucky out of compliance with an agreement it signed with the U.S. Department of Justice to improve the accuracy of its rolls. In an interview, Grimes denied the state was out of compliance.

Grimes asserts that as the state’s chief elections officer, it’s only natural that she exercises close control of both the secretary of state’s office and the SBE. She has cited the SBE’s resolution granting her day-to-day control of the agency as an endorsement of the breadth of her power. Consistent with the resolution and Kentucky law, Grimes has “taken an active role in the operations of the SBE,” according to a statement provided by her legal team. The statement denied that she has introduced partisanship into the SBE.

Kentucky has long split election oversight between two agencies to reduce the possibility of partisan control, according to experts. The secretary of state manages the candidate nomination process, while the SBE handles almost all other state election functions, such as maintaining voter rolls and coordinating with the 120 county clerks in the state who oversee polling sites.

In keeping with the goal of nonpartisanship, past secretaries have presided over the board meetings of the SBE but allowed its staff to run day-to-day operations unfettered. “It appears that Grimes views the SBE as an arm of her office,” said Trey Grayson, who served as secretary of state from 2004-11. “I certainly didn’t.”

Three state agencies are now investigating what multiple SBE staff members have called a “power grab” by Grimes. The investigations largely originated with complaints by those staffers, who charged that Grimes was encroaching on the SBE’s responsibilities.

One aspect of the secretary of state’s response to the investigations suggests how closely the agency oversees the SBE: An assistant secretary of state, Erica Galyon, requested the right to sit in when investigators question SBE staffers, as did Luke Morgan, a lawyer that Grimes retained to represent the SBE.

That proposal did not go over well with the Kentucky Personnel Board, one of the agencies investigating Grimes. A lawyer for the Personnel Board emailed Galyon and Morgan, rejecting their request to be present. The email quoted messages from unnamed SBE staffers. One noted, “Our staff has been intimidated enough…is it possible to request that they not be there?” Another employee wrote, “We all just want to do our job and not be in constant fear of SOS staff retaliation.” (Grimes’ statement defended Morgan’s right to be present for the investigative interviews but did not address Galyon’s role.)

The power struggles have led to a stalemate. SBE staff is unwilling to trust the secretary of state’s office, which they’ve been told to report to, and Grimes has been stymied in her attempts to remove the SBE’s two top executives.

SBE employees say Grimes’ team is controlling even basic tasks. For example, they say they’ve been barred from meeting with third parties — including the Department of Homeland Security, which regularly assists states with cybersecurity services — without consulting the secretary’s office.

The SBE has been barred from having staff meetings without someone present from the secretary’s office. The SBE is also no longer allowed to handle its own public records requests. Document requests made to the SBE for this article were decided by the office of the secretary of state.

Asked what’s driving Grimes’ efforts to expand the scope of her role, her communications director, Lillie Ruschell, said, “I think the secretary has made it pretty clear that first and foremost, it’s her job to [have day-to-day oversight] and second, she is somebody who is on the ground every year and every day.” Ruschell added: “She’s only as involved as she feels she needs to be. She’ll back off if she needs to, but if she needs to or wants to [be involved] that’s her prerogative.”

Grimes’ attempts to expand her power first surfaced publicly in the fall of 2017. That’s when Matt Selph, then assistant executive director of the SBE, filed a complaint against her to the SBE. Among other things, it detailed a litany of ways in which he claimed Grimes and her team were increasingly asserting control over the SBE: insisting on approvals of new hires and even that Grimes’ office had to vet any correspondence between SBE staff and the organization’s board.

Grimes and her supporters brushed off Selph’s complaint as a partisan attack by a Republican. She persuaded the board to fire him. Not, she maintained in a closed session, in retaliation, but because he had allegedly harassed two employees. In an interview for this article, Grimes said Selph was terminated “for the protection of the workers at the State Board of Elections.”

Don Blevins Sr., who was on the board at the time and voted against the termination, called the accusations “weak.” And interviews for this story with more than 25 people who had worked with Selph failed to turn up anyone who witnessed any harassment. Nearly all said they believed Grimes fabricated the accusation to justify the firing, a statement echoed by Selph, who fought in the Iraq War and asserted that Grimes attempted to portray him as a troubled veteran to try to tar him. (In her statement, Grimes did not address the allegations that she fabricated the claim. For his part, Selph filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state.)

Complaints about Grimes cycled back into view in late August 2018. Jared Dearing, a Democrat who Grimes had selected as executive director of the SBE, filed a complaint that was strikingly similar to Selph’s.

Grimes snapped into action. She called an emergency meeting of the SBE for the next day, Aug. 28. At the meeting, most of which was closed to outsiders, she and Dearing squared off against each other, trading heated arguments as the board members watched in stunned silence.

Dearing at the Aug. 28 meeting of the SBE. Photo: Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader

Eventually, Dearing was asked to leave the room. After he departed, Grimes continued to assail him at length, using words she has repeated to the media multiple times since, that he has a “fundamental misunderstanding” of her office’s statutory authority. Her extended criticisms of Dearing left the impression that Grimes wanted him ousted, according to a person with close knowledge of the board.

The emergency meeting ultimately lasted six hours. Before it ended, Grimes took one more step that would spark a controversy. Having grappled directly and indirectly with Dearing over the extent of their respective sway, Grimes insisted that the board needed to at least reaffirm her powers.

Weary after the hours of combat, the board decided to “pacify” Grimes, according to the source with knowledge of the board and multiple others who have spoken to board members, by adopting a resolution that reaffirmed her powers. They viewed it as a harmless step.

The vote was 4-0 (two board members were absent and the chair tends not to vote unless there is a tie). But two of the four who voted would almost instantly regret their actions.

Only three weeks later, the board reassembled for a regular meeting, with a full complement of six members and the chair present. Republican members DeAnna Brangers and Josh Branscum attempted to rescind the previous vote.

“Frankly, I’ve come to regret my vote on it,” Brangers said, according to an audio recording of the meeting. Board members, she explained, were “under the impression that it really just codified things that are already written in state and federal law. I mean, who can argue with that?” After she began to look at the resolution in more detail after the meeting, Brangers said, she realized she’d made a mistake. (Brangers did not explain how she missed the plain language of the resolution, which stated that the secretary of state “is necessarily charged with the day-to-day oversight of regular operations of the Kentucky State Board of Elections and its staff. …”)

It was too late. The effort to rescind the vote split along partisan lines and Grimes cast the deciding vote against the motion. Since then, she has repeatedly pointed to the disputed resolution as proof of the board’s confidence in her.

That confidence isn’t universal. In late September, the Kentucky County Clerk’s Association presented a letter signed by all 120 clerks in support of Dearing and Jennifer Scutchfield, Dearing’s second-in-command. Kenny Barger, the Republican clerk in Madison County, co-authored the letter with a Democratic clerk. “It comes to a breaking point sometimes, where you just have to call it and speak out,” he said.

Clerks have begun calling board members to express concern. Many interviewed for this article contend that Grimes has damaged the relationships between her office and the clerks, people she has little authority over but whose cooperation she and the SBE need to implement statewide programs. Grimes is term limited as secretary of state — her tenure runs out at the end of 2019 — and clerks hope her replacement will be less controlling.

Another point of controversy has been Grimes’ handling of a federal order regarding voter-roll maintenance. SBE board members and staff argue that she has prevented the board from complying with the order.

Grimes has long opposed what she refers to as “purges” of the voter roll. Like many Democrats, she views them as attempts to suppress voting. In the wake of a June 2018 Supreme Court ruling that granted Ohio the ability to remove people’s registration if they skip voting for several elections and fail to respond to a mailer, Grimes said she would never remove Kentuckians from the rolls for that reason.

At the time, Kentucky was already under fire for improper list maintenance. In early 2018, the Department of Justice joined a lawsuit against the state filed by conservative activist group Judicial Watch. The DOJ alleged that, since 2009, Kentucky had violated federal law by failing to send postcards to verify that voters’ address records are up-to-date and accurate. The lack of checking, the DOJ claimed, resulted in a voter roll with numerous incorrect entries. The state signed a consent decree on July 3 that committed Kentucky to implementing the address-checking process now and in the future.

The process has revealed a significant number of outdated registrations. Almost 300,000 postcards have been returned as undeliverable, suggesting that those voters do not live at those registered addresses. That’s equivalent to about 8 percent of registered voters in the state.

But no further actions have been taken, and some staffers and board members believe that’s intentional. Dearing’s complaint alleges that the day the consent decree was signed, Grimes insisted he stop the address-checking process. A week later, after Dearing complained about the legality of the request, according to the complaint, then-assistant secretary of state Lindsay Hughes Thurston told him and Scutchfield they could restart, but they were to “slow walk” the process.

The delays have frustrated some county clerks. “That reflects on me,” said Griggs, the clerk in McCracken County. “My county. And I don’t like that.”

The Justice Department concluded that the SBE was dragging its heels, according to a letter DOJ attorney David Cooper sent to the state in mid-September. Kentucky had agreed to begin sending additional mailers before Aug. 8 and failed to do so. Among other things, the letter asserted that the SBE had “ceased” what had been productive working discussions “and directed that all further communication take place through outside counsel.” Cooper wrote that Kentucky had “fallen short of its obligations” under the consent decree. (Neither the DOJ nor Judicial Watch responded to requests for comment.)

Morgan, the lawyer Grimes retained for the SBE, responded to the DOJ letter, asserting that the Justice Department had in fact approved a delay in order to ensure no voter was unfairly disenfranchised. He has since claimed the same to board members, and emails show at least one board member has asked Morgan to send proof that the DOJ made such an agreement. To date, Morgan, who did not respond to a request for comment, has not done so.

Compliance with the consent decree has become a major part of one investigation of Grimes, according to people questioned by investigators. Kentucky’s attorney general appointed Mark Metcalf as an independent counsel last year, initially to examine the allegations raised by the SBE’s Dearing. Metcalf declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. (Grimes’ statement to ProPublica and the Herald-Leader did not address the issues raised about the consent decree.)

Grimes appears unlikely to change her approach even under the pressure of investigations. At the September SBE meeting, after the Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion finding that her access to the voting registration system may require her to recuse herself from her role as chief elections officer in 2019 should she run for office, Grimes responded that the ethics commission was “all Republican” and that it was “attempting to try and justify their use of taxpayer dollars to have interference in this board.” She added, “No outside agency can determine how this board runs.”

This story, the second of a three-part series, was co-published with the Lexington Herald-Leader. It was originally published by ProPublica.


Kentucky Aluminum Plant Investor Is Russian Company Formerly Under US Sanctions



Craig Bouchard speaks at a Braidy Industries launch event as KY Gov. Matt Bevin (right) looks on.

This article was originally published by the Ohio Valley ReSource.

Russian aluminum company Rusal announced Monday it plans to invest in a new Kentucky aluminum mill to be built near Ashland in eastern Kentucky. The $200 million investment in Braidy Industries is Rusal’s first U.S. project since the Trump administration lifted U.S. sanctions placed against the company.

Rusal had been sanctioned by the U.S. government because its major controller, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, faces accusations of “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Russia, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Those actions include interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and meddling in neighboring Ukraine.

Deripaska also has close business ties to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of tax evasion and money laundering. Deripaska is suing the U.S. to have sanctions against him removed.

The Trump administration released Rusal from sanctions in January after the company reduced the ownership stake held by Deripaska. Congressional Democrats attempted to block the White House decision and passed legislation in the House that would keep sanctions in place. However, the bill fell short in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Democrats of trying to “politicize” the sanctions.

Braidy Bunch

According to a press release, RUSAL will earn a 40 percent share in the factory’s profits, and Braidy will keep the remaining 60 percent. The plant has also received $15 million in direct investment from the state of Kentucky. Gov. Matt Bevin cut a deal to attract Braidy to the state with that public money and additional tax incentives totaling more than $10 million.

As part of his reelection bid, Bevin has pointed to the Braidy development as evidence of job creation in an economically struggling part of the state.

“This is a seed that has been in the ground, the germination so often seems invisible to people,” Bevin said at an event over the weekend in Martin County, Kentucky. “But good things have been happening.”

The project is expected to cost more than $1 billion and employ over 500 people.

The Ashland project will produce rolled aluminum for the American auto and aircraft markets, and is the type of project President Donald Trump hoped to support with his tariffs on aluminum imports.

Braidy Industries CEO Craig T. Bouchard discussed the partnership at the New York Stock Exchange Monday morning.

“We’re really lucky and honored to have them as our partner in Kentucky,” Bouchard said of Rusal, adding that his company had chosen to partner with Rusal for its record of environmentalism.

We are going to lead the world in highest quality, lowest cost, and the least use of carbon from start to finish in the manufacturing process, and we’re changing the world,” he said.

The Ashland aluminum mill would be the first such plant to be built in the U.S. in 37 years, according to industry sources. Final agreements among the partners are expected to be signed later this year.

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Kentucky’s Secretary of State Turns Up Heat in Fight With Elections Board

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Alison Lundergan Grimes removed the State Board of Elections’ executive director, a longtime critic of her actions, from a national committee on improving the country’s voting systems.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes escalated her fight with the State Board of Elections last week when she removed its executive director from a national committee devoted to improving the country’s voting systems and better protecting them from cyberattacks.

Grimes took the action against the executive director, Jared Dearing, just days before he was expected to travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to participate in a meeting dealing with upgrading the voting machines and technology used by states across the country. The meeting is being held by the federal Election Assistance Commission’s Standards Board, and is widely considered to be the most significant meeting of the EAC in years.

Dearing has been a longtime critic of actions taken by Grimes, by law the state’s top elections official, and last year he filed a nine-page complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission accusing Grimes of creating a hostile work environment and overstepping her authority. Dearing’s complaint helped prompt a number of investigations into Grimes’ performance and played a role in the state legislature’s decision last month to strip Grimes of some of her authority over state elections.

Grimes has steadfastly denied the claims against her, calling them politically motivated. Grimes is a Democrat, as is Dearing. In a statement, Grimes’ spokeswoman, Lillie Ruschell, said appointments to the Standards Board remain at the secretary’s discretion, and she made new appointments using “the same routine practice as previous appointments over the past eight years.”

Ruschell said the decision to remove Dearing was based on his “absence from the 2018 EAC meeting.” In a statement, Dearing said he skipped last year’s meeting at the direction of Grimes.

“I was unable to attend the 2018 meeting because the secretary did not give me approval to travel, and at that time the secretary approved all travel requests,” he said. “The Standards Board meetings are an important function of securing the commonwealth’s election systems. The State Board of Elections will continue to do everything in our power to secure our systems whether or not we are in attendance.”

This will be the first time in the history of the EAC’s Standards Board that Kentucky will not be represented by an SBE director. Trey Grayson, a former secretary of state in Kentucky, said “It’s puzzling to see this deviation from Kentucky’s long-standing practice of appointing a staff member from the SBE to this board. And the timing of Dearing’s removal, given his outspoken criticism of her, is curious.”

Dearing was widely expected to be an active participant in the Memphis meeting, and he had been consulting with elections officials across the state and country in preparation. He is being replaced by Assistant Secretary of State Erica Galyon, who has been largely absent from national conversations on voting machines.

Grimes also removed Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger from the Standards Board and appointed Johnny Collier, the clerk from Jessamine County. Barger has also been an outspoken critic of Grimes. Ruschell said Barger was removed because of his lack of “communication” about the meeting. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Collier also did not respond to a request for comment, but his office indicated he would not attend the meeting in Memphis family issues. This has left Grimes’ office scrambling to find another elections official only one day before the meeting begins.

Neither Barger nor Dearing’s term on the Standards Board officially ends until the end of the month, making it unclear to Kentucky’s elections officials why Grimes chose to make appointments only days ahead of a crucial meeting.

“This meeting is huge,” said Gabrielle Summe, the clerk in Kenton County, who is also the president of Kentucky’s statewide clerks association. “It decides the machines Kentucky will be able to buy.”

Summe said Grimes’ replacement of Barger may have been improper. She said national regulations required that “local election officials” select one of their own for the Standards Board. Summe said the Kentucky County Clerks Association was neither told that Grimes intended to dismiss Barger nor consulted about his replacement. The association is taking steps to prevent Barger’s removal. said the KCCA had never before complained about the appointment process.

“There’s no vacancy,” Summe said. “There’s no reason to replace him and he’s got at least a little more experience with the process.”

According to federal and state officials, last September Dearing was in the process of being approved for a security clearance when Grimes abruptly asked the Department of Homeland Security to halt the process. The move came only weeks after Dearing first issued his public grievances with Grimes.

In her statement, Ruschell did not explain why Grimes halted the process but said security clearances were at the secretary’s discretion.

In pushing back against the legislation that reduced her powers over state election matters this year, Grimes had argued that she alone had the security clearance necessary to respond to real or potential threats to election security in the state. In doing so, she failed to mention she had played a role in making sure members of the SBE lacked such clearances.

“At a time when election security is a top concern for our nation, our Republican majority wants to remove the only member of the State Board of Elections with a National Security Clearance from having a voice in protecting Kentucky, placing the process solely in the hands of unelected bureaucrats appointed by the Governor,” Grimes said in a statement last month.

After the 2016 election, DHS allowed the “chief elections official” in each state to apply for a security clearance and to sponsor the applications of two appointees in order to streamline communication between the federal government and the states.

The clearance allows DHS to quickly communicate threats to Kentucky’s elections infrastructure. Without the clearance, Dearing would likely not be among the first to know about imminent risks. The SBE is largely responsible for the day to day management of elections.

Officials indicated the SBE has expressed its intention to ask for additional clearances to be given to its members now that legislation has given the board clearer authority. It is likely this process will move forward.

EAC spokeswoman Brenda Soder said the general counsel is reviewing Grimes’ new appointments to the Standards Board “to determine the right course of action for all involved” and that a decision on how to move forward will be guided by relevant federal law.

“This will have a huge impact on the way our state is run,” Summe said. “We need to keep the people there who should be there.”

Update, April 11, 2019: The Election Assistance Commission rejected Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ attempt to replace one of Kentucky’s representatives on the commission’s Standards Board. The commission said Grimes lacked the authority to replace Kenny Barger, the local elections representative serving on the Standards Board. Grimes had tried to replace Barger in the days leading up to a major conference on voting machine reform.

This article was originally published by ProPublica.

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Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections



Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Photo: Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS via Getty Images

The bill takes multiple steps to scale back the level of control Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has asserted over the board in recent years.

The Kentucky legislature passed a bill on Thursday that strips Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of her authority over the State Board of Elections, restructures the SBE and makes misusing the voter registration system a misdemeanor crime.

The bill takes multiple steps to scale back the level of control Grimes has asserted over the SBE in recent years, including removing the secretary of state as the chair of the board. The secretary will become a nonvoting member of the board, and the board will now include two former county clerks — one from each party.

The bill now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader published stories this year detailing the secretary of state’s office’s use of the voter registration systemto look up information on political rivals, as well as the range of misconduct allegations against Grimes being explored by state investigators.

Records released last week confirmedthat staff in her office had looked up those named in the reports by ProPublica and the Herald-Leader, including members of a state ethics agency currently investigating Grimes’ conduct.

Last October, the attorney general’s office appointed a special counsel to investigate ethics complaints made against Grimes, involving both a no-bid contract given to a campaign donor as well as an allegation she’s intentionally failed to comply with a federal consent decree dealing with the state’s voter rolls. Grimes, a Democrat, is also under investigation by two state agencies: The Executive Branch Ethics Commission is investigating similar claims, and the Personnel Board is investigating allegations that Grimes has created a hostile work environment and that she inappropriately searched the voter registration system to discover the political affiliation of potential and current employees.

There are no specific dates set for investigators to issue their findings, although the special counsel is expected to release his initial report in the coming weeks.

The Republican lawmakers behind the legislation — which passed largely along party lines — said they had grown to fear Grimes was exerting undue influence over state election matters. While the secretary of state is statutorily the “chief elections officer,” the process of helping counties facilitate elections has long been primarily managed by the SBE.

“In her last year in office, we needed to take significant steps to ensure our elections are protected, and to send a message to the next secretary of state — be it a Republican or a Democrat — that these types of shenanigans will not be tolerated,” said Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican and the author of the bill.

In a statement released after the bill’s passage, Grimes said she was considering taking legal action to prevent the bill from going into effect, claiming it would dangerously centralize authority with the governor’s office. The only expansion of the governor’s authority under the bill is officially appointing two new board members, a role he already fulfills for the six current members who are selected by the parties.

Kentucky’s county clerks, who manage elections at the local level and operate largely independently from the state, widely supported the bill. Clerks from both parties have been critical of Grimes’ alleged interference in election policy.

Julie Griggs, a Democrat and the clerk in McCracken County, called the bill a “good start” that will be “helpful” to the clerks. “I’m glad the vote went the way it did,” she said.

The Republican clerk in Kenton County, Gabrielle Summe, who is also the president of the statewide clerks association, said that the bill will help the clerks have more of a voice at the SBE. “We were ignored [by Grimes], and because she could control the State Board of Elections, we couldn’t even have a relationship with them,” she said. “We’ll move forward with better communication and a clearer process.”

Grimes has denied all of the accusations against her. She has said her staff used the voter registration system for legitimate purposes and has “at all times” followed the law. She has called the accusations of inappropriate searches, hostile treatment and abuse of power filed by two SBE employees — one Democrat and one Republican — “political.”

Some number of Democrats have sided with Grimes, and they called the legislation “vengeful,” saying it would “weaken” election systems. Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton called it a “big baby bully bill.”

During her time in office, Grimes has seized more authority over the SBE than any other secretary before her — dictating when board meetings were to be held, shifting the location of meetings from the SBE office to the Capitol, approving all records requests releases by the SBE and asking the board to pass a resolution granting her day-to-day authority over the SBE. Under her guidance, the secretary of state’s office also received access to the voter registration system for the first time. None of these moves violated existing state law but were in stark contrast to her predecessors’ hands-off treatment of the SBE and its employees.

“There was a situation where a politician identified a place in the law where it didn’t say they could do something and it didn’t say she couldn’t, and she drove a truck through that,” said Tres Watson, a Republican strategist in Kentucky and former communications director for the Kentucky GOP. Watson said the bill restores the prior power balance and called Grimes “the first truly partisan secretary of state that anyone can really remember.”

“When someone behaves like that, it opens the door to others,” he said.

Grimes, in her statement and in a tweet, said the bill would create “chaos.” Griggs and Summe took issue with the claim.

“I can’t imagine what that’s supposed to mean,” said Griggs, who said the bill would not change how voters cast their ballot or the way clerks manage elections. “We do our jobs and we do them well, and I don’t see that this is going to cause chaos in the least bit.”

This article was originally published by ProPublica.

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100 Days