Perry businessman charged with vote-buying in Hazard

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMay 19, 2010 

A Perry County businessman was arrested on charges of vote buying in Hazard on Tuesday with police alleging that he paid at least one person $20 and gave him a ­ballot sheet showing him how to vote.

Kentucky’s election fraud hotline received about 200 fewer phone calls than in 2006 when similar races were on the ballot, according to Allison Martin, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jack Conway’s office. By 7:30 p.m., the hotline had received 121 calls, including complaints of vote buying or selling in 11 counties.

In Perry County, Hazard businessman Pearl Combs Jr., 57, was arrested on a charge of vote buying, said Hazard Deputy Police Chief Joe Engle.

The man arrested is not the Pearl “Bubby” Combs who ran for Perry County judge-executive, Engle said.

In the case involving Pearl Combs Jr., Engle said he received an anonymous tip of vote buying in Combs’ office on High Street Tuesday.

“We noticed a lot of ­people going in and out of that business,” Engle said. “One individual stated to us that he had been paid $20 — showed a sample ballot with several candidates names marked on it, and was told to go vote for these ­individuals and they would pay him $20.”

Also, Timothy Thacker, 48, was arrested for allegedly selling his vote, Engle said.

Both men were in the Kentucky River Regional Jail on $5,000 cash bonds.

Engle said more arrests were possible and he had called in the Attorney General’s office and the FBI.

Engle also seized poker machines from Combs’ office.

Meanwhile, by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, complaints of vote buying or selling had been lodged with the election fraud hotline involving 11 counties: Breathitt (11 calls), Clay (seven), Jackson (two), Knox (one), Laurel (one), Leslie (three), Magoffin (three), Monroe (one), Perry (four), Powell (one) and Wayne (one).

Complaints about election officials were made in Clay, Grant, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurel, Letcher, Madison, Martin, Mason, Metcalfe and Pike counties. There were allegations of electioneering (campaigning too close to the polls) in Bell, Clay, Floyd, Jefferson, Kenton, Pike and Wolfe counties; general election fraud in Garrard, Laurel, Madison, Perry, Scott, and Wolfe counties; and complaints about exit polling in Rockcastle and Whitley.

Kentucky voter turnout surpassed the 30 percent that had been expected to go to the polls to select party candidates for national, state and local offices. With 112 out of 120 counties reporting as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the statewide turnout was 31 percent. With all but two precincts reporting, Fayette County was showing a 28 percent turnout, said Les Fugate. an assistant deputy secretary of state. Jefferson County had a turnout of just more than 27 percent, Jefferson County Clerk’s office spokesman Nore Ghibaudy said.

In Boone and Jefferson counties, a few precincts ran low or ran out of Republican paper ballots. Ghibaudy said more Republicans voted Tuesday than in the 2008 presidential election.

Reporter Bill Estep contributed to this report. Reach Janet Patton at (859) 231-3264 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3264.

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