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Grimes Accused Of Misusing Voter Data By Elections Staffer

Alix Mattingly

The executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections is accusing Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of improperly accessing the state’s voter registration system, creating a hostile work environment and using her position to politicize the election system.

This is the second time in a year that Grimes has been accused of ethical mishaps by a staff member of the state’s elections agency.

In a nine-page letter sent to the State Board of Elections, Jared Dearing said that Grimes used voter registration data to screen job applicants for party affiliation, yelled at employees who raised ethical concerns and chipped away at checks and balances that insulate poll workers from politics.

“I am not suggesting that the Secretary has, or plans to, manipulate the Commonwealth’s elections, however, the damage done is in the appearance of this ability and to the confidence the voting electorate must have in our elections being free and fair, unfettered by corruption and malfeasance,” Dearing wrote.

Grimes has been considering a run for governor or attorney general next year and has pushed for boosting election security. She was also a prominent opponent to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, refusing to release state voter data to the federal government.

Dearing is a Democrat who used to work as a staffer for Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin.

In the letter, Dearing said that Grimes ordered him to not comply with a Department of Justice order for Kentucky to review its voter registration rolls by verifying the identities of registered voters.

“I was called in to speak to Secretary Lundergan Grimes in her office. In this meeting I was specifically told to immediately stop the scanning of all returned voter address confirmation cards, which was in direct contradiction to the consent decree,” Dearing wrote.

Dearing also said that Grimes has thwarted the political independence of poll workers by acquiring the names and addresses of 15,000 poll workers across the state to send them thank you notes ahead of this year’s elections.

“The legislators who created the laws that govern our elections placed a system of checks and balances within them; checks and balances that would allow no one individual or one political party to have an unfair advantage within the system,” Dearing wrote. “During Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ term in office, many of these checks have been slowly chipped away.”

In a statement, Grimes’ communications director Bradford Queen denied the allegations.

“The State Board of Elections, which Secretary Grimes chairs, received the complaint this morning,” Queen wrote.

“The complaint is baseless and lacks a basic understanding of the constitutional role and duties of the chief election official and chair of the Board and its staff.”

Last year, former Board of Elections assistant director Matt Selph, a Republican, filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, alleging that Grimes improperly handled voter information and awarded a security contract to a campaign donor without proper approval.

The State Board of Elections has called a special meeting to take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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