FRANKFORT — Kentucky has taken steps to prohibit electioneering on public property within 100 feet of polling places for the May 19 primary election.
The State Board of Elections approved the emergency administrative regulation authorized by Gov. Steve Beshear at a meeting Tuesday.
The regulation comes in the wake of an April 28 ruling by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a Kentucky law prohibiting electioneering within 300 feet of a polling place was unconstitutional.
The court said a 300-foot ban is too broad. The U.S. Supreme Court previously had upheld a 100-foot ban.
But without Tuesday's action by the Board of Elections, Kentucky would have had no ban in place for the upcoming primary.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the state's chief election official, said the regulation took effect immediately and does not apply to private property.
She said it prohibits persons from displaying signs, distributing campaign literature, soliciting signatures to any petition or soliciting votes for or against a candidate or issue on the ballot within 100 feet of an entrance to a polling place used by voters.
It also prohibits, Grimes said, those activities in or on a building in which absentee voting is taking place.
The regulation does not prohibit exit polling and does not apply to bumper stickers on vehicles that are within the 100-foot zone for a reasonable amount of time in which to vote, Grimes said.
"A campaign-free zone around voting locations is necessary to prevent voter intimidation and election fraud," Grimes said.
"The court ruling came just weeks before Election Day, and when absentee voting was already under way, so the state board acted quickly to exercise its authority to put in place a ban that both helps ensure our elections are free and fair and complies with the court's ruling," Grimes said.
The regulation also will be in effect during the November general election, said the secretary of state.
She noted that the 2016 General Assembly could address the issue.
The court case was brought last June by John Russell, a Campbell County businessman whose campaign signs were removed from the lawn of his business on Election Day in 2012 and 2014.
The signs were removed by sheriff's deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place at a church in Cold Spring.
The 6th Circuit also held that the state law requiring the buffer was unconstitutional because it didn't contain an exception for private property.