Kentucky’s process for purging voter rolls challenged in federal court; Adams fights back

The outside of the Sugar Maple Square polling site in Bowling Green, May 21, 2024. (Photo by Austin Anthony, Kentucky Lantern)

By McKenna Horsley
Kentucky Lantern

A grassroots advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against Kentucky election officials alleging the state’s process for removing voters from rolls violates federally protected voting rights. 

The state’s top election official responded that undoing the law during a presidential election year would “sow chaos and doubt.” 

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) filed the lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky against Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams and the State Board of Elections, which includes Republican and Democratic members. 

Secretary of State Michael Adams (Photo from Kentucky Today)

The complaint alleges that Kentucky’s election law, which was changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and became permanent in 2021, violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. KFTC says the federal act requires registered voters who have moved to receive notice in writing to confirm their address and have time to respond before they are removed from voter rolls. Kentucky’s law “flagrantly violates these requirements,” KFTC argues, by not giving voters notice before removal. 

Adams issued a statement Tuesday saying he plans to defend the law in court. The 2021 changes, known as House Bill 574, were signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. 

“Kentucky’s elections are a national success story,” Adams said. “Three years ago, Kentucky enacted a bipartisan law to prevent voting in more than one state in a presidential election. Now that a presidential election is underway, a fringe left-wing activist group is trying to undo that law and sow chaos and doubt in our elections. We believe voters should vote in only one state, and we expect to prevail in court.”

In addition to the removal process, the 2021 state law also has provisions for no-excuse in-person early voting and updates to regulations for absentee ballots. 

The secretary of state also said that 4,362 individuals had been removed from the voter rolls in June. Of that group, 3,030 were deceased, 603 were convicted of felonies, 554 had moved out of the state, 78 voluntarily deregistered, 52 were duplicate registrations and 45 were adjudged mentally incompetent.

KFTC is asking the court to permanently enjoin election officials from canceling voter registrations without following provisions required by federal law. 

The group’s lawsuit also says it registered more than 2,000 new voters during last year’s governor’s race and plans to “directly register even more prospective voters due to the presidential race.” 

KFTC will hire 15 people across the state for this year’s voter registration program, which includes field training and webinars. 

Founded in 1981, KFTC’s mission is to “challenge and change unfair political, economic and social systems by working for a new balance of power and a just society.”

Read Kentuckians for the Commonwealth v. Michael Adams

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions:

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