Audit: 1,329 state workers improperly claimed voting leave time, costing state $102,000 in wages

12/05/2017 01:01 PM

More than 1,300 state workers took half the work day off to vote in the elections in 2015 and 2016, but Auditor Mike Harmon says records show they weren’t entitled to the paid voting leave they received.

Harmon released a report Tuesday that says 1,329 state employees claimed four hours of voting leave to cast ballots that should not have received the benefit, costing the state more than $102,000 in lost wages.

Of those workers, Harmon reported that 1,176 did not vote in the 2015 general election or the 2016 primary election. Others identified in the audit should have been ineligible because they weren’t registered to vote, took leave time on days when no elections occurred or claimed the time while they were on extended leaves already, among other issues.

Harmon said the findings “should be troubling not only to taxpayers, but to those who have fought for the right to allow all of us the freedom to choose our leaders.”

“The preliminary information summarized in our report will be forwarded to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and to the Personnel Cabinet for further investigation and possible disciplinary action,” he said in a statement.

Harmon’s audit also found irregularities in the state’s voter registration system.

The report said that the system showed no voting credit for 453 workers who actually voted in the 2015 general and 2016 primary elections, had Social Security numbers for state employees that do not match personnel records and showed three individuals with two separate entries in the system, two of whom were shown in two separate counties each.

“It is essential to keep our election registration system in Kentucky accurate and avoid any issues which could give the appearance of improprieties with voting records,” Harmon said in a statement. “I encourage the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State, and others who oversee our election rolls to review this finding carefully, and to take the actions necessary to eliminate errors our auditors uncovered.”

Mary Sue Helm, then the interim executive director of the State Board of Elections, wrote in a Nov. 30 response that Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes had previously shared her concerns with the voter registration system, some of which match findings in Harmon’s audit, with the board.

Helm said registering online eliminates errors by county clerks in deciphering handwritten registration cards and that the implementation of electronic poll books statewide will resolve voter credit issues.

She added that county clerks don’t have the authority to investigate whether voters give accurate Social Security numbers when registering to vote and noted that the information isn’t actually required for registration per state or federal law, “so the attempt to validate that information would prove to be an imprudent use of already scarce county and state resources.”

“Secretary Grimes and the State Board of Elections share your view that Kentucky citizens deserve a government that is accountable and serves their interests,” Helm wrote in her response letter. “This agency will undertake a careful review of your recommendations and looks forward to responding in more detail.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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