Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cheating Delayed

Runoff repeal vote delayed? They should not even consider this!

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Lawmakers delayed voting on a bill that would eliminate the governor's race runoff, to give themselves more time to decide how to cover that election's costs as well as what the legal ramifications of junking it might be.

After a lengthy discussion about the bill that would eliminate the runoff starting with this spring's governor's race, Rep. Rob Wilkey, the Democratic House whip, asked members of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee to pass over the issue and pick it up again in "a day or two" at a special meeting. "I think there have been some questions raised about whether or not we ought to repeal this particular statute after people have already filed and begun to run for this office," Wilkey told reporters after the meeting.

As the law stands now, a runoff election would kick in for the governor's race if no candidate in the May 22 Democratic or Republican primaries received at least 40 percent of the vote. The special overtime election between the top two finishers in a party's primary would be held five weeks after that May 22 election was certified.

It's possible candidates could file a lawsuit if the General Assembly eliminates the runoff, thereby changing the rules in the middle of a race, Wilkey said. He said he hadn't heard from any of the 10 candidates for governor urging legislators to keep or repeal the runoff. But Secretary of State Trey Grayson said he spoke in November with a candidate whom he wouldn't identify -- before that person filed to run for governor -- and "volunteered to that potential candidate that the runoff provision would be in place for this race."

"I asked, 'Would this make it more likely you would run?' And the candidate said 'Yes,'" said Grayson, a Republican. He declined to say what party affiliation that person has.

"It's easier to finish in the first two," Grayson noted.

In addition to the possibility of litigation, lawmakers also raised the prospect that a runoff election could be delayed by a legal challenge to the primary election results. That could bump back the runoff to as late as July or August.

County clerks across the state are pushing to eliminate the runoff, considering that it would cost counties as much as $1,500 per precinct to hold that extra election. "The money is a big issue for me. That's the reason we filed the bill," said Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, the sponsor of the bill. The Kentucky Board of Elections passed a resolution 6-0 yesterday to support the clerks' position. But Les Fugate, spokesman for Grayson, said that aside from the clerks, the secretary of state's office hasn't received any calls urging repeal of the runoff.

Another issue regarding the runoff that came up at yesterday's committee meeting was the effect it would have on absentee ballots. Leslie County Clerk James Lewis said that having to put together an election after five weeks provides only a limited window of 15 days to get such ballots to and back from Kentuckians who are overseas, including military personnel. Nelson, meanwhile, has filed another bill related to the runoff that would require the state to cover the estimated $5 million in total costs to the 120 counties for setting up voting booths and paying poll workers.

Wilkey said he thought that the legislature would at least decide to cover the counties' costs. But the House Democrats' position remains fluid. "I think we're going to have a runoff but it's going to be paid for by the state," Nelson said after the noon House Elections Committee meeting.

But three hours later, he said the chances of getting rid of it were back to "50-50."

House Democrats will meet today to decide where their caucus stands on the issue, said Rep. Charlie Hoffman, majority caucus chairman.

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