Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Limit on pressure at polls advances

By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer

INDEPENDENCE - By Election Day, three Northern Kentucky counties hope to adopt legislation to prevent aggressive campaigners from intimidating voters at the polls.

Officials in Kenton, Boone and Campbell counties are considering identical ordinances that would ban electioneering, or active campaigning, within 200 feet of a polling place.

Kenton Fiscal Court gave initial approval to the change Tuesday. Kenton County officials will have a final vote on the electioneering ordinance in two weeks, and officials in all three counties hope to approve the change by the end of the month.

Under the identical proposals, anyone convicted of the misdemeanor would face a fine of up to $500 or up to a year in jail - or both. The sheriff, his deputies and elections officials would have the power to remove anyone who obstructed the voting process.

Local elections officials say they lobbied for the change as a proactive measure. They are concerned that a statewide vote on same-sex marriages and a divided electorate could prompt aggressive campaigning at the polls.

Since Kentucky's electioneering law was struck down in January after a court declared its 500-foot restriction unreasonable, officials in 97 of Kentucky's 120 counties have approved their own laws limiting active campaigning at the polls.

With many areas predicting record turnouts on Nov. 2, elections officials don't want campaigners at the polls to slow the voting process or intimidate voters.

"My only concern is the 200-foot restriction versus 300 feet,'' said Kenton County Commissioner Dan Humpert. He added that county officials had first discussed a possible 300-foot ban when County Clerk Bill Aylor proposed the change last summer.

Although some rural counties have adopted a 300-foot restriction on active campaigning, Northern Kentucky elections officials think 200 feet is reasonable in an urban setting, said Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson.


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