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Effort to end odd-year elections for governor, other state offices wins Kentucky Senate approval

A long-running effort to change elections for Kentucky governor and other statewide offices to coincide with the presidential election won approval in the state Senate on Wednesday. A bigger test for supporters will be whether they can muster enough votes to pass the House.

The measure aims to amend the Kentucky Constitution to end the Bluegrass State's long tradition of holding elections for governor and other state constitutional offices in odd-numbered years. The proposal would switch those races from 2032 to the presidential election year.

After a lengthy debate, the proposal won Senate approval by a vote of 26-9 and was sent to the House. Similar proposals have failed in the House of Representatives in the past few years.

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If this year's bill ultimately passes both chambers, Kentucky voters will decide whether to end odd-year elections for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, and agriculture commissioner in November. It will be on the paper.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel has been pushing for a constitutional amendment for a decade. His proposals have passed the Senate in the past, but have always been defeated in the House.

After Wednesday's Senate vote, McDaniel appealed to House leaders to give Kentucky voters a chance to consider the issue. Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in both chambers.

April 7, 2021 at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. An effort to move elections for governor and other statewide offices to even years to coincide with presidential elections won approval in the state Senate on January 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

House Speaker David Osborne on Wednesday declined to comment on that outlook, noting there had been “pretty strong opinions on both sides” among House members so far.

“We will start a dialogue with the caucus and try to understand the situation,” he told reporters. “It's impossible to predict at this point.”

Under Kentucky's current system, elections are held three times every four years. Supporters of the bill said that's why they're making the change.

Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer said he supported the bill, saying, “Voters are tired because they have elections three times every four years.”

McDaniel said that if his proposal had won legislative approval and been ratified by voters 10 years ago, Kentucky counties could have saved more than $30 million in total election cuts by now. He said the state would have saved nearly $4 million.

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“And Kentuckians would have been spared having their lives interrupted by countless political ads in odd-numbered years,” McDaniel said.

Supporters also said turnout for statewide office would be much higher if the election coincided with a presidential election.

Democratic Sen. Reginald Thomas opposed the bill, saying Kentucky should continue its tradition of holding elections in odd years to keep statewide issues at the forefront. He said the combination of statewide races and the presidential election would overwhelm the state issues.

“This is purely a political move aimed at influencing the presidential election,” Thomas said. “And that's a bad path for Kentucky.”

If voters approve the change, the state will hold another statewide election in 2027. Last year's election saw Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman win re-election, and Republicans won every other constitutional office.

Term limits for governors and other statewide offices remain four-year terms. However, if the proposal were approved, candidates elected to these offices in 2027 would have an extra year added to their terms to align those elections with the 2032 presidential election. .

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