Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

June 13, 2014

OUR VIEW: Candidates have too much influence in absentee votes

GLASGOW — Now is probably a good time to take a fresh look at the laws governing mail-in absentee voting.

As we wrote before, we’re glad the Democratic primary for Barren County judge-executive has been so thoroughly vetted. A recanvass, a recount and an election challenge all failed to budge the original election-night tally, which is a testament to the careful, professional work of the Barren County Clerk’s Office. Voters may finally turn their attention to November’s general election confident in Micheal Hale’s three-vote victory. He rightfully won the Democratic nomination to face Republican David Honeycutt for the position.

That said, what a mess can be caused by laws that seem to open the door for candidates – at least those who choose to do so – to so actively participate in the mail-in absentee process. The procedure teems with the potential for queasiness-inducing boundary pushing, if not outright malfeasance.

Precious little specifically describes – or limits – a candidate’s role in the absentee procedure.

There is a law defining who is allowed to apply for a mail-in ballot on another person’s behalf. Candidates are not listed among them.

Meanwhile, Kentucky in 2013 amended the law to prohibit lists of absentee voters from being made public until after the election in an effort to cut down on unnecessary pressure on voters from candidates. A northern Kentucky candidate has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the change, arguing that it prevents him from communicating his platform to these voters.

During the course of this year’s judge-executive primary, both of these laws were part of the discussion.

We absolutely want those who physically cannot make it to a polling place to have the opportunity to cast a ballot. But it’s no secret that mailing applications and ballots back and forth can invite  trouble, even if all the signatures and flaps are in the proper place. During the period of time the paperwork is out of the county clerk’s hands, there’s often no way to know what’s really happening with it.

We’re convinced candidates and their campaigns should be further removed from the absentee process. But if that’s an unrealistic desire, we hope the existing procedures are enforced – for instance, state law calls for absentee ballot applications and voter assistance forms to be presented to the grand jury when it convenes for the first time following an election. Considering what we’ve been talking about for the past several weeks in Barren County, we hope the grand jury takes a good look at these documents.

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