Covering Kentucky

Aug 10, 2012 1:45 PM

Grimes Files Lawsuit To Protect Military Voters

On Friday, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court to protect the rights of uniformed service and overseas voters to vote in special elections in the Commonwealth. Grimes is seeking judicial relief to allow sufficient time for those voters to receive, fill out, and return absentee ballots.

"Currently, Kentucky law does not provide adequate time for overseas citizens, including men and women in the military who are stationed abroad, to have a full opportunity to vote and have their ballots counted in special elections," Grimes said. "Kentucky law is not only inconsistent with federal requirements, but also out of touch with the practical difficulties facing overseas voters and the county clerks, who administer elections. With the court's assistance, I am hopeful we can resolve this matter to protect our overseas citizens' fundamental right to vote."

To date, special elections to fill vacancies in the Kentucky House, Second District, and Kentucky Senate, Nineteenth District, are scheduled for November 6, 2012, the same date as the General Election. If additional vacancies arise, more special elections could be scheduled, including one to fill the vacancy in the office of United States House of Representatives, Fourth Congressional District.

The Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Project has found that ballots must be sent 45 days prior to an election in order for overseas, and especially military, voters to have adequate time to receive, vote, and return them. As a result, in all federal elections, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act requires states to transmit a validly requested ballot to a uniformed service or overseas voter by no later than 45 days prior to the election, if the request was received at least 45 days in advance, and within three days of the request if received thereafter.

Kentucky's special election law allows candidates under KRS 118.770 to file petitions and certificates of nomination up to 28 days before the scheduled special election. Thus, absentee ballots for special elections to fill vacancies in the General Assembly, U.S. Congress, and the office of Governor can be sent out a maximum of only 27 days before the special election.

"Regardless of whether it's a special or regular election, every election matters, and every vote counts," said Grimes. "Kentuckians who risk their lives on the battlefield must have their voices protected at the ballot box, and I believe it is important to be proactive so that their right to vote is not compromised pending enactment of a new state law."

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