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The Red, White & Gray of Magoffin County Elections: What You Need to Know Before Election Day

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If one thing has been made completely clear from the past two general elections in Magoffin County, a large chunk of the community honestly doesn’t know all the laws surrounding voting. Whether intentionally or not, we have voters selling their votes and being taken advantage of by politicians who prey on their lack of knowledge.

Since there’s less than a week until the election, I’m guessing the politicians willing to stoop to illegal practices will not be swayed by an article. If the past vote-buying convictions and threat of prison time won’t sway you, I’ve got nothing. 

No, this article is for the voters on the fence – the voters who don’t understand 100% how the process is supposed to go, the ones who happen to need $50 and hitting a button in a booth won’t really change their day, and the ones who tend to think if their grandfather electioneered at the polls, it must be fine. Simply put, we want to debunk the gray areas of elections.

How the voting process is supposed to go
Now, I’m not in the school of thought that everyone should vote. Just going to the polls does not make you citizen of the year. In my opinion, you should ABSOLUTELY vote if you have done your research. You know who’s running for what. You’ve checked with the county clerk’s office and know where you’re voting. You have studied over the sample ballots (inside this paper) and know what your ballot is going to look like. You have a solid opinion for who you think will do a better job in each respective position.

While it’s too late to change anything in your voter registration status for this election, you can also check your status, find out where you will vote and look at the sample ballots by visiting the online Voter Information Center at GoVoteKY.com. 

On Election Day, you will go into the polling place and, after standing in line, you will be asked to sign your name on the roster. You may have to show your ID if no one recognizes you. This is to ensure that everyone who votes there is actually supposed to vote in that precinct. If you’re doing everything right, this won’t be a problem. 

Once in the voting booth, you will be able to select your choices in each race. There’s at least four pages to every ballot (more than that if you live in the city), so be sure to flip through each page. 

Important to note, you don’t have to vote in every race. You can vote in one race, if that’s what you want. Don’t start picking familiar names just to fill out the ballot. Vote in the races in which you actually have an opinion. When you’re done and have reviewed your ballot, be sure to hit confirm. Without hitting confirm, someone can come in behind you, change your selections and then confirm it how they see fit. 

If your name isn’t on the roster or your status is challenged
Don’t panic. If they don’t have you on the roster or your status is questioned, but you know you have the right to vote in that precinct, ask for a provisional ballot. If everything checks out, it will be counted. In a court of law, judges generally rule in favor of every voters’ ballots to be counted, so just play the game. As long as you live in that precinct, registered to vote at least 28 days before the election, and have not lost your rights to vote, your vote will be counted. 

Who can be in the booth with you
If you want a close friend or a family member to go in with you to help read the ballot, that is your right. If you didn’t bring anyone, but you need help, you can ask for assistance. You will have to sign an oath stating that you need assistance due to blindness, other physical disability or inability to read. Both the precinct judges, the Republican and the Democrat, will go into the booth to help you, but it’s still your show. They technically can only hit a button when you ask them to.

Kentucky law is also very specific, stating that a person may not be assisted at the polls by his/her employer or employer’s agent, or an officer or agent of his/her union. 

Important to note, no one will ever need to “review your ballot” or “check if you did it right.” Those are red flags and have been brought up numerous times in election-related trials in which people DID go to prison.

The gray areas leading up to the election
Big red truck time, but it is illegal to sell your vote. No gray area there, but as testimony in court has shown us, vote buyers are generally not that obvious with the lingo, often making the vote sellers feel like they’re doing nothing wrong.

If anyone offers you money, a job, alcohol, road work, or basically any perk just for you to go and “remember them” in the voting booth, guess what, they’re trying to buy your vote. If you cash in on that offer, you have actually committed a crime.  Chances are, if a case is made against anyone, it will be the vote buyers, not the sellers, but you can be subpoenaed to testify in court. If you refuse to testify, you can be held in contempt of court, as well as convicted for selling your vote. While no one wants to be a “snitch,” more than like you really won’t have a choice but to get on that stand and in front of God and everyone point to the person that offered you money for your votes. And don’t forget that most everyone has the capability to video at any given time, so there could be a record of it. Last election, a similar video led to one man going to prison.

Road work in an of itself is also tricky. It is the government’s job to keep up infrastructure. County, city or state workers providing general upkeep or repairs to a county, city or state-owned road is not only okay, it’s their job. The problem occurs when they withhold roadwork due to political disagreements or provide roadwork to sway a vote. This is often the real gray area in elections since the act itself is not illegal, just the motive. Before letting roadwork sway your vote, try to find out when the money was allocated for the job. The near-Election Day timing of the job may not be a coincidence.

Early voting info
While attorneys that try election cases will tell you absentee voting is the bread and butter of vote buying, early voting is not inherently bad. Absentee voting is for people who won’t be in the county on Election Day or will be unable to get to the polls. Kentucky law does not provide for early voting or unexcused absentee voting. You don’t necessarily have the right to cast your vote early, but if you qualify, it may make it easier for you to do your civic duty. 

There are two types of absentee voting: mail-in and in-person voting, and to do either, you will have to go through the county clerk’s office. 

To quality to vote by a mail-in absentee ballot, you must be: advanced in age, disabled, or ill; military personnel, their dependents, or overseas citizens; a student who temporarily resides outside the county; a voter who temporarily resides outside of Kentucky and who maintains eligibility to vote in Kentucky, such as a "snowbird;" incarcerated, but not yet convicted of a crime; prevented from voting in person at the polls on election day and from casting an in-person absentee ballot in the county clerk’s office on all days in-person absentee voting is conducted because of his or her employment location.

Similarly, to be qualified to vote by in-person absentee ballot (voting at the courthouse before Election Day), you must be: out of the county on election day; advanced in age, disabled, or ill; military, their dependents, or an overseas citizen; military personnel confined to base and learn of your confinement within seven days or less of an election; student or resident who temporarily resides outside of the county; voter or the spouse of a voter who has surgery scheduled that will require hospitalization on Election Day; pregnant woman in third trimester. You can also qualify to vote absentee machine if you are one of the following: precinct election officer appointed to serve in precinct other than his or her own; alternate precinct election officer; County Board of Elections’ members; County Board of Elections’ staff; deputy county clerk; or State Board of Elections’ staff.

No one needs to know
The beauty of our election process is you and only you have to know who you select once you get in that voting booth. Photos can be taken at the voting place, but only to document voting occurring, not how someone votes. If you want to get on Facebook and tell the world how you voted, that’s your prerogative, but technically it’s no one’s business. No poll worker, employer, random person standing outside the polls, or family member has the right to know how you voted unless you want to share that information with them.

Electioneering
Come Election Day, electioneering should be about over. Yes, candidates can knock on your door or visit your place of business and ask for your vote. It’s illegal, however, to do that at a polling place. I have had a former city council member tell me that was okay because her grandfather did it, but she was actually admitting to me she had broken an election law (and so had her grandfather back in the day). 

On Election Day, no person may electioneer within 100 feet of a polling place. That restriction does not apply to private property (unless being used as a voting location), exit polling, or bumper stickers on vehicles that are present for a reasonable amount of time (time it takes to vote, not just camped out at a polling place). During absentee voting, electioneering is not allowed within the interior of the building and no election signs may be affixed to the exterior or interior of the building where absentee voting is occurring. 

People can offer rides to polling places, and even talk about who they would recommend voting for on the ride, but that talk must end within 100 feet of the polling place and no money or other incentives may change hands. 

Who to call if you suspect something is really wrong
If you feel someone is breaking an election-related law or you have question about election irregularities, you have a few options. You can contact the Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office at 800-328-VOTE (8683) during regular business hours and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Assistant United States Attorney Ken Taylor has been appointed to serve as the District Election Officer for the Eastern District of Kentucky and will also be overseeing the handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses. He will be on duty while the polls are open and he can be reached by calling 859-685-4874. 

In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on Election Day. For all Kentucky-based complaints, FBI personnel can be reached by the public at 1-844-596-6721 or Kentucky_PC_Complaints@ic.fbi.gov.

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington, DC by phone at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, by fax at (202) 307-3961, by email to voting.section@usdoj.gov or by complaint form at http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/votintake/index.php.

Vote like my grandfather did
Back in the day my grandfather used to pick up his neighbor on the way to the polls and they would go place their respective votes. One was a staunch Republican and the other was a die-hard Democrat. 

Someone asked my grandfather why he would give the man a ride, knowing he was canceling out his vote.

“He votes the same as I do,” he replied.

“Oh, you know not.”

“He votes for the people he thinks will do the best job and that’s who I vote for, too!” 

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