On February 22, 2013, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would adopt Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ recommendation to keep confidential until after Election Day the identities of absentee voters. House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) helps to maintain the integrity of elections by protecting absentee voters from groups seeking to influence their votes. Sens. Chris Girdler (R-Somerset) and John Schickel (R-Union), a retired law enforcement officer, will carry the bill in the Senate.

“We know that Kentucky has a history of vote buying through bills, pills and gravel”
Grimes told the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs, “and our absentee voters are the most susceptible to attempts to purchase their votes. HB 203 will free absentee voters from the reality – or even the fear – of being victims of vote buying or undue influence and allow them to truly cast their votes in privacy, something all voters are entitled to do.”

Under current Kentucky law, the identities of voters who have requested absentee ballots are subject to open records requests.  According to many county clerks, including those from counties with the highest instances of vote buying, unscrupulous groups and individuals often use open records laws to obtain absentee voters lists and contact those voters in an attempt to sway their decisions. Under HB 203, the identities of absentee voters would be exempt from open records requests until after the election, although the number of absentee ballots that have been requested would still be available.

Supported by both law enforcement officials and the Kentucky Press Association, HB 203 is part of Grimes’ initiative to strengthen her office’s approach to combating election fraud. In 2012, Grimes expanded the Election Integrity Task Force to include new agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kentucky Commonwealth Attorneys Association, Kentucky County Attorneys Association, Kentucky County Clerks Association, Kentucky Sheriff’s Association, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Democratic and Republican Parties.  The task force unanimously supported the proposal.

“The guarantee of free and fair elections is fundamental to our democracy,” said Grimes. “By taking a comprehensive approach and employing new strategies, we can strengthen their integrity and prevent them from being tainted by undue influence, power or bribery. I am grateful to Rep. Owens and Sens. Girdler and Schickel for their leadership in sponsoring this bill, and I hope the Senate will join us in ensuring that Kentucky’s elections are not for sale.”




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