Secretary of State
Press Release: Grimes-Backed Election Bill, The Dewayne Bunch Act, Signed Into Law
Today, Governor Steve Beshear signed into law House Bill 293, the Dewayne Bunch Act. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the state’s Chief Election Official and Chair of the State Board of Elections, advocated in favor of the Act, which saves Kentucky taxpayers money with respect to special elections in which only one candidate seeks office. Rep. Darryl T. Owens, Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs, sponsored the bill, and both the House and Senate unanimously approved it.
Under House Bill 293, in uncontested special elections to fill seats in the General Assembly, county clerks must conduct voting at the county clerk’s office or at other locations designated by the county boards of elections and approved by the State Board of Elections. Secretary Grimes said, “I am pleased that the General Assembly honored former Representative Dewayne Bunch in naming this act and excited that both chambers overwhelmingly supported the bill. At a cost of more than $1,000 per precinct for a special election, this law will result in substantial savings while protecting the integrity of the election process. I am proud that, working with our county clerks, we were able to ease the burden on our counties and taxpayers with respect to special elections.”
Rep. Owens echoed Grimes’ comments, noting that the law is a “commonsense piece of legislation to reign in unnecessary expenses in uncontested special elections.” Sen. Damon Thayer, Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, spoke in favor of the bill before the Senate, noting that House Bill 293 “will result in cost savings for counties and taxpayers where the election is essentially a formality.”
In a special election last December, voters in 40 precincts in Whitley and Laurel counties elected Rep. Regina Bunch to represent the 82nd House District. The special election was scheduled to fill the vacancy created when Bunch’s husband, former Rep. Dewayne Bunch, resigned after suffering a severe brain injury while breaking up a fight between students.
Bunch ran unopposed. Only 2.5% of the voters in Whitley County turned out for the special election, and less than 1% of registered voters in Laurel County participated. The election cost a total of approximately $47,000—$40,000 in Whitley County and $7,000 in Laurel County. After reimbursements from the State Board of Elections, Whitley and Laurel county taxpayers were left to bear an estimated $33,000 and $6,200, respectively. Kay Schwartz, Whitley County Clerk and President of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, estimated the procedure allowed under House Bill 293 would have saved Whitley County alone tens of thousands of dollars.