Days before Tuesday’s election, the usual rumors started flying: vote fraud was rampant once again in eastern Kentucky.
“I am hearing from credible sources that there are massive Democrat vote-hauling operations” in the works, one government employee told me in a text message.
Another source claimed he’d heard about possible irregularities in one particularly troublesome county.
The buzz continued to grow. On Monday morning, less than 24 hours before the polls opened, the Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement saying it had “received numerous calls about a meeting held in Eastern Kentucky last week where a commitment was made to pay 500 people $35 each to work as ‘vote haulers’ on election day.”
Where was the meeting? Who called it? Who ran it? Was money promised for votes? Credible details were scarce. No one could offer any hard evidence.
The GOP’s statement noted there is “a well-known and recent history of vote buying in the region.”
Of this I’m familiar. I’ve covered vote buying for many years, and recently chronicled Kentucky’s history of this illicit electoral fraud. (Read “How Kentucky Does Election Fraud: Vote Buying“)
The GOP’s press release hinted at illegal vote hauling, an Election Day hustle in which groups transport voters to the polls and buy their votes. But paying people to haul voters is perfectly legal, as long as no coercion or swapping of votes for money is involved.
In fact, as the release noted, some people live far from their polling place. Disabled or disadvantaged people may have no way to get to the polls unless someone drives them.
(Payments to vote haulers are, by law, supposed to be made by check, with all such payments reported to the state Registry of Election Finance. We’ll be sure to follow up on how many of those reports actually get filed.)
The Kentucky Democratic Party adopted a more subdued stance on possible shenanigans, urging anyone who witnesses “anything that looks like an election irregularity or a possible election law violation” to call the official Election Fraud Hotline at 800-328-VOTE.
KyCIR is following voting issues across the state. Check out our Election Day live blog for more.
Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6533.