Voter freebies not 'vote buying' in Fayette

jpatton1@herald-leader.comNovember 7, 2012 

A complaint about potential vote buying in Fayette County seems to have been a tempest in a teapot, or a coffee cup.

The call on Election Day apparently came from a member of the Lexington media, asking about someplace offering freebies for voters.

"There was an inquiry from the media about whether a promotional offer related to voting constituted vote buying," said Lynn Zellen, spokeswoman for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who chairs the state Board of Elections and the Kentucky Election Integrity Task Force.

The elections board referred the question to the Kentucky Attorney General's office as one on "vote buying."

Jack Conway's office reviewed the question "and did not categorize that as vote buying," Zellen said Wednesday. "They consider it to be a promotional offer."

So a free cup of coffee or doughnut for those wearing an "I Voted" sticker is not a crime in Kentucky, although there have been reports that federal voting officials frown on it as "commercializing the vote."

Meanwhile, Conway's office will investigate 15 calls made to the Election Fraud Hotline on or before Nov. 6 involving allegations of vote buying or selling.

There were complaints involving Adair, Boyd, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Madison, Meade and Wolfe counties. (Some had more than one call.)

Altogether, the hotline received 229 calls, including 183 from nearly 60 counties on Election Day. Most involved procedural questions, voting machines, legal questions and complaints about election officials. There also were 15 involving voter identification, 10 about electioneering within 300 feet of polls, seven about general election fraud or other miscellaneous issues, and two campaign-finance complaints.

The county with the most calls was Jefferson with 70, followed by Fayette with 17.

In the 2008 presidential election, the hotline received 450 calls, Conway's office said.

The attorney general's office will randomly draw six counties to have election results audited within 20 days, as required by statute.

Separately, Grimes reported that the Board of Elections fielded 135 calls from 47 counties regarding the election.

"Thanks to the vigilance of Kentucky voters and hard work of local election officials and the more than 15,000 precinct election officers across the commonwealth, there were no disruptions in voting yesterday," Grimes said in a statement.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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