Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 6, 2013

Booming times

History of election fraud is obstacle to efforts in state

The Independent

ASHLAND — Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes has launched a statewide tour to gauge public support for allowing more voters to cast their ballots before Election Day. While other states have enacted laws to allow early voting, the biggest obstacle to the proposal in Kentucky is the state’s history of widespread voter fraud.

With indictments and convictions of candidates for vote buying and other election violations coming in the aftermath of countywide elections in recent years, legislators are understandably leery about doing anything that could enable unscrupulous candidates to find new ways to rig the results of elections. That’s why bills designed to encourage more early voting have failed to gain approval during recent sessions of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Grimes, the state’s top election official, began her series of town hall meetings  last week in Morgan County. The meetings will explore whether Kentucky should join more than 30 other states that have less stringent rules for early voting “as a way to increase voter participation.”

Other meetings are set for Kenton County on May 22, Jefferson County on May 29, McCracken County on June 3 and Madison County on June 20. We note with some regret not one is in this corner of the state, but then we are used to being snubbed by Frankfort.

Kentucky now allows only limited early voting by absentee ballots, which are reserved for people who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. Typically, that’s because of out-of-town travel, military service or health concerns, but in the past, absentee ballots have been used to rig local elections. In one recent election in which county races were on the ballot, the number of absentee ballots cast in some small rural counties in this region outnumbered the absentee ballots cast in Jefferson and Fayette counties, the state’s two most populated   counties. The only way to explain that was an organized effort to skew the election results. That’s what makes many in this state nervous about encouraging more people to vote early.

Her goal is not to encourage more voter fraud, Grimes said, but to “make sure that the very people these laws affect have a voice at the table.” Grimes said she’s prepared to make legislative or regulatory recommendations based on her findings.

“Early voting is obviously something that’s left up to the Legislature,” she said. “But I am encouraging and supportive of every means we can take in order to increase participation.”

Grimes said states that allow early voting have seen increased participation in their elections. Grimes predecessor, former Secretary of State Trey Grayson, had pushed the proposal unsuccessfully during his term in office. He had called for allowing Kentuckians to vote in person up to 12 days before an election, without having to make excuses as required under current absentee voting procedures.

However, Grayson was never able to convince members of the Kentucky General Assembly that his proposal would not encourage more voter fraud. For Grimes’ effort to be successful, she must show ways her plan will encourage more voting without increasing the chances of fraud.