On Thursday, American Oversight won an important victory in our lawsuit against Kentucky’s Office of the Attorney General for the release of public records related to the Ballot Integrity Task Force, a 2020 partnership between state election officials and law enforcement aimed at investigating and deterring incidents of supposed “voter fraud.”
American Oversight had requested communications concerning the task force’s activities, as well as meeting records and other documents related to its formation and work. In today’s ruling, the court held the attorney general’s office had improperly claimed some records were exempt from disclosure and ordered their immediate release. The court also found the attorney general’s search for records, which turned up only 14 responsive records, was likely inadequate and ordered the office to conduct a more thorough search within 20 days, provide any discovered records to American Oversight, and report back to the court.
The court expressed skepticism that there could be so few records related to “an apparent collaboration between several state and federal agencies, including the OAG [attorney general’s office], the FBI, the Kentucky Board of Elections, both of Kentucky’s Federal District courts, the Kentucky State Police, and the U.S. Postal Service.” The court further stated it was the agency’s duty to conduct an “open, thorough, and good faith search of its records in response to an Open Records Request,” indicating that it was doubtful the attorney general’s office met the standard here.
In the months before the 2020 election, multiple states launched voter fraud task forces that purported to safeguard elections but in fact were designed to amplify former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the threat of voter fraud.
“Voter fraud ‘task forces’ were an early attempt to sow doubt about the integrity of elections and dissuade citizens from exercising their right to vote,” said Melanie Sloan, American Oversight’s senior adviser. “Today’s ruling demonstrates that efforts to evade transparency will not be tolerated. As the court made clear, the public is entitled to see what officials involved in this group were doing behind closed doors.”
Kentucky’s Ballot Integrity Task Force was formed in late May 2020 and chaired by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Secretary of State Michael Adams. In July of that year, American Oversight filed open records requests with the attorney general’s office for the task force’s meeting notes and reports, as well as emails sent by task force members containing terms related to voter fraud. The office failed to turn over records, prompting American Oversight to sue in September 2020.
American Oversight’s investigation of a similar task force in Georgia — the state’s Absentee Ballot Fraud Task Force — revealed it met only once before the 2020 election. A task force member informed American Oversight he had asked several county election supervisors in his state whether they were concerned about absentee voter fraud, and reported. “None indicated there was any concern,” adding, “There is NOT a wide spread case of Voter Fraud happening.”
Part of Investigation: