Wednesday, November 3, 2004

N. Ky. election briefs

Suit filed on Senate residency

LOUISVILLE - A Democratic state Senate candidate filed a lawsuit Monday asking that votes for her Republican opponent Tuesday not be counted because she didn't meet residency requirements.

Virginia Woodward claims that her opponent, Dana Seum Stephenson, "is not a bona fide candidate." The suit contends that Stephenson has not lived in the state for six years before the election, as required of state senators by the Kentucky Constitution.

The suit asks that Stephenson's name be removed from the ballot, or that votes for her not be counted. Woodward's lawyer said a hearing was set for today, the day after the election.

Stephenson is the daughter of state Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville. Stephenson and Woodward were locked in a heated race to succeed retiring Democratic state Sen. Larry Saunders in the 37th District in Louisville.

The race is one of several statewide that will decide which party controls the state senate when the General Assembly meets in 2005. Republicans currently hold a 22-16 advantage.

"These types of last-minute legal dirty tricks are typical of Democrats when they know they are going to lose," said John McCarthy, state Republican Party chairman.


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court declined to step into a dispute Monday over whether Kentucky laws that ban cash as well as post-election donations is constitutionally permissible to battle corruption and campaign fraud.

The court, without comment, let stand a lower ruling that struck down the rules as unconstitutional because they violate First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

Hobart Anderson, who ran for Kentucky governor in 1999 as a write-in candidate, filed the lawsuit after claiming the laws unfairly restricted his ability to campaign.

The Supreme Court's decision not to intervene means that politicians will now be able to campaign within 500 feet of polling places, lend more than $50,000 of money to their own campaigns and ask for contributions after an election.

Kentucky had passed the laws in 1992 to battle corruption and help financially equalize the gubernatorial race after three millionaire candidates won office between 1979 and 1991.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, siding with Anderson in saying that rules capping campaign contributions particularly hurt write-in candidates because they aren't eligible for public financing.

The 6th Circuit reasoned that Kentucky had failed to provide evidence justifying a ban on campaigning for a distance as far as 500 feet.

Banning cash donations, as opposed to checks, to help establish a paper trail of donors' names improperly discourages support from poor people, the court said.

The case is Stumbo v. Anderson.


HEBRON - Applause from many in a long line of waiting voters greeted Republican Congressional candidate Geoff Davis and his wife, Pat, when they arrived at North Pointe Elementary School in Boone County to vote at around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. At that time, voters were waiting around 90 minutes to vote, and the line stretched outside the school and curved around. An overhang protected the voters from a steady rain.


FORT MITCHELL - Democrat Nick Clooney decided to concede the 4th District race to Republican Geoff Davis about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Clooney's campaign people attempted to reach Davis to concede, but they did not have Davis' cell phone number. Davis found out about the concession from a reporter.


FRANKFORT - Voting went smoothly statewide, with just a few minor glitches, according to the Secretary of State's Office. In Harlan County, a machine went down when the polls opened at 6 a.m. Voters were told to come back later when they should have been given paper ballots.

Paper ballots were given out beginning at 10:30 a.m. and a new machine was in place by noon.


COVINGTON - A handful of supporters of Democratic Kathy Groob and 10 to 15 other onlookers filled the third floor of the Kenton County Administration Building as election results were projected onto a wall several races at a time.

Groob's supporters were hopeful early in the evening when she held a lead of fewer than 50 votes with less than half of the county's 108 precincts counted. Their hope turned to despair when several people said it looked like she didn't do it, as others in Groob's camp nodded and agreed.

Groob was defeated by Republican Jack Westwood for Kentucky's 23rd District senate seat.


COVINGTON - Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor was ecstatic that his county's election results came in before Campbell and Boone counties were finished with their tallies. He said that was the first time he could remember that happening.

Votes from all of the county's precincts had been gathered before 8 p.m.

Aylor said things got a little confusing when a Crestview Hills precinct worker who was carrying the cartridges with the recorded votes got into a car wreck.

No one was injured, and it turned out only to be a fender bender when the poll worker was backing out of their parking space in the polling lot, Aylor said.


FORT MITCHELL - About 45 parents and home-schooled teen-agers from across the nation - all waving Geoff Davis for Congress signs - stood on a sidewalk in Fort Mitchell Tuesday afternoon in a last-ditch effort to get out the vote for their candidate.

Earlier this week, the Generation Joshua Student Action Team and their parents dropped off literature at homes of registered Republicans throughout the 4th Congressional District and worked phone banks to get out the Republican vote.

"We go where there are contested races that need our help," said Julie Slater, 43, of Mount Vernon, Ohio, which is about an hour northeast of Columbus. "Geoff Davis is pro-life and pro-gun. He stands with the president as far as defense and security."

Slater came to Northern Kentucky with her daughter, Lindsey, 15, and her daughter's friend, Courtney Bradford, also 15, who flew in from Dallas to volunteer for Davis.

"Basically, I support Davis because of his Christian beliefs," said Jacob Etter, a 16-year-old volunteer from Tennessee. "He's pro-life and anti-homosexuality."

"We may not be able to vote, but at least we can campaign," Courtney Bradford said. "It doesn't matter that it's raining. That just drives us to work harder."

At one point, Covington resident Jon Wright, 23, a volunteer for Democratic state Senate candidate Kathy Groob, stood alongside the group with a Clooney for Congress sign "to make sure voters see both sides." He said about 20 to 30 local Democratic supporters campaigned throughout Northern Kentucky on Tuesday "to get out the last minute vote."

"It's interesting that we have non-Kentucky, non-voting people here for Davis," Wright observed.


COVINGTON - Patrick Golsby, 19, of Covington, said he escorted more than 20 people to the polls through a get-out-the-vote effort called the Covington Democratic Initiative. Its leader was Bennie Doggett, a well-known activist in East Covington, whom Golsby knew through his church.

Before the election, the group sponsored a Hip-Hop Youth Explosion to encourage 18- to 25-year-olds to register to vote, said Golsby, who was wearing a John Kerry button on Tuesday.

"(Kerry) is trying to help people, rich or poor, and Bush is just trying to get the rich richer and the poor poorer. Kerry's trying to get health benefits for senior citizens," Golsby said.


COVINGTON - Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor characterized Tuesday's voter turnout as "monstrous, especially in the suburbs."

The Kenton County suburbs of Crescent Springs, Crestview Hills, Villa Hills, Fort Mitchell and Edgewood all had 80 percent or better voter turnout, Aylor said. Covington had between 60 and 65 percent turnout, which should bring Kenton County's overall turnout close to the 70 percent predicted.

Results in some Kenton County races were delayed Tuesday night when a poll worker delivering election results from a Crestview Hills precinct had a car wreck en route to the Board of Elections.


CRESCENT SPRINGS - Among the Kenton Countians who made sure to vote Tuesday was Wanda Selvestru, 86, of Crescent Springs, who was suffering from severe arthritis in her knee but said she never missed a chance to cast a ballot.

Ditto for Joseph Eder, 67, a Crescent Springs resident who is a native of Hungary.

"A lot of people think voting is a nuisance. It is not. It is not only a duty, it is a privilege," Eder said.


BURLINGTON - Boone County residents were some of the last in the Bluegrass to cast their votes Tuesday. The extraordinary turnout meant some extraordinary lines in this fast-growing county.

At 7:30 p.m. there were still people waiting in line to vote at Erpenbeck Elementary School and Florence United Methodist Church on Pleasant Valley Road.

"This hasn't happened since I've been here," said Marilyn Rouse, Boone County clerk. "But those are two of our biggest precincts, so I'm really not surprised."

In the next presidential election, Rouse plans to split those two precincts and maybe four others. There are 2,360 registered voters at Erpenbeck Elementary and 1,688 registered voters at United Methodist.


FORT WRIGHT - TANK officials said their offer of a free ride to anyone who voted in Tuesday's election was a success.

More than 800 passengers had taken them up on the offer as of 5 p.m., said Gina Douthat, TANK spokeswoman. She said the bus company originally estimated that 25 percent of its average daily ridership of 12,000 would take advantage of the free offer.

"Obviously, people love to get anything for free," said Douthat. "If they can stick their buck twenty-five in their pocket and get a ride, they are happy."

This was the first year Northern Kentucky's public bus system offered the free rides. Douthat said management thought of the idea after a driver suggested giving veterans a free ride on Veterans Day.

Douthat said the drivers used the "honor system" in giving free rides after some polling places ran out of "I Voted" lapel stickers.

"I think the promotion increased our riders' awareness of the election," she said. "We will evaluate how it went before deciding whether to make this an annual event."


ROSS - Nearly 84 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots at one rural polling place in eastern Campbell County.

Poll worker Joyce Beal said 487 of 581 registered voters showed up Faith Baptist Temple on Ky. 8, also known as Mary Ingles Highway. And that doesn't include anyone who voted by absentee ballot.

"Turnout was great," said Beal, who has been a poll worker for 35 years. She said the busiest time was in the morning, with 15 to 20 people waiting for the doors to open.

She reported no problems other than some voters getting delayed by a car wreck on Ky. 8 Tuesday evening.


NEWPORT - Turnout in Campbell County was "heavy," and probably set records, county Clerk Jack Snodgrass said Tuesday evening as ballots still were being counted.

"A lot of people came who haven't voted in a long time, or this was their first time," Snodgrass said. "And it slowed the lines down. Subsequently, because of the numbers too, there were some hour-, hour-and-20-minute waits in some precincts.

"Other than that, it was pretty uneventful," he said.


FRANKFORT - Secretary of State Trey Grayson said his office wasn't seeing any major problems in voting across the Bluegrass.

"We've got heavy turnout reported statewide," he said. "It's not unusual for people to be waiting a half an hour or 45 minutes. But these are good problems to have," he said.

Grayson said his office also got a lot of phone calls.

"We've been getting usual questions about voter eligibility, electioneering, and instances of machines going down," he said.

Grayson said there was a problem in a Harlan County precinct of 430 voters when a machine stopped working. County poll workers mistakenly turned voters away when they were supposed to have people vote by paper until the problem was fixed.


PETERSBURG - Voters at the Petersburg precinct in Boone County were already waiting in line since before 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to workers.

Poll workers Mary Gessling and Patty Birkle said the turnout had been great all morning.

"We haven't stopped since 10 'til 6 this morning," Gessling said. "We have 835 voters registered, and we are expecting close to 80 percent turnout."

The waiting line to get behind the blue voting curtain averaged about 10 people.

Dale Monroe, 50, of Petersburg, just moved here from Greenhills.

"I've always voted," he said, "I'm not familiar with much on the local races. ... I'm mostly here for the presidential race."


Children in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties came out in force to cast their ballots for Kids Voting USA.

Every station in the three counties had a children's drop box for completed ballots. Most precincts were staffed with volunteers to help children during peak hours.

No word yet on which presidential candidate had the vote of Northern Kentucky's kids.

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