January 11, 2019 Blog

Lawless GOP seizes 17 Absentee Ballots in Attempt to Overturn Election of Democratic State Representative

On Friday, the Kentucky Democratic Party called on Chairman of the House Election Contest Board, Republican State Representative Jason Petrie, to immediately release chain of custody documentation for the 17 absentee ballots that were removed from the Daviess County Clerk on Wednesday afternoon.

In a meeting Thursday afternoon, the three Democrats on the Board indicated they were not aware the ballots had been removed from Daviess County and had to ask the Chairman for clarification about where the ballots were located. Chairman Petrie indicated the ballots are “in the custody” of the House Clerk who is under the sole direction of Republican House Leadership. He did not mention whether the ballots were secured in a similar manner as required by Daviess County.

Kentucky Law requires that uncounted absentee ballots be kept in a ballot box that “shall be locked with three (3) locks. The keys to the box shall be retained by the three (3) members of the central absentee ballot counting board, if one is appointed, or by the members of the board of elections, and the box shall remain locked until the ballots are counted.”

A photo published by the Messenger-Inquirer on Wednesday evening revealed absentee ballots sitting in plain view of the public, bound only by a single rubber band, and being handled by the Deputy County Clerk and a Daviess County Sheriff.

“The photo was shocking, quite frankly. The fact that these ballots were removed from their locked ballot box and transported while held together by a flimsy rubber band is appalling,” said Marisa McNee, spokesperson for the Kentucky Democratic Party. “Chairman Petrie has done irreparable harm to the integrity of the process and must immediately release detailed information about the chain of custody and the current location of the ballots.”

It is unclear under what authority Chairman Petrie directed the removal of the ballots to the control of Republican House Leadership. The Board met three times in the last week to discuss the evidence requested by lawyers for DJ Johnson and Representative Jim Glenn. The Board never discussed or voted on a process for the handling of sensitive evidence or the retrieval of ballots out of the custody of the Daviess County Clerk.

The Kentucky Democratic Party is calling on Chairman Petrie to immediately release the following information to the public:

  1. Any communication with the Daviess County Clerk directing the release of 17 absentee ballots;

  2. A complete list of names of every individual who touched, carried, transported, handled, or had contact with the 17 absentee ballots in question;

  3. A detailed account and timestamped evidence of the release of the 17 absentee ballots from Daviess County, including photographs of the condition of each ballot upon release and a description of the security protocol for protecting the ballots from tampering;

  4. A detailed account and timestamped evidence of the receipt of the 17 absentee ballots by the House Clerk, including photographs of the condition of each ballot upon receipt and a description of the security protocol for protecting the ballots from tampering;

  5. The current location of the 17 absentee ballots including a detailed description of the security protocol in place to protect against tampering or tainting of evidence;

  6. A complete list of names of every individual who has access to the 17 absentee ballots;

  7. Any communication with Speaker Osborne regarding the retrieval of the 17 absentee ballots from Daviess County and the receipt of the 17 absentee ballots by the House Clerk;

  8. Any communication with any member(s) of the Election Contest Board regarding the release, receipt, location or status of the 17 absentee ballots.

“Chairman Petrie has acted as a lone wolf without agreement or authority from the Board in setting up an arbitrary process for the handling of these ballots, and he has destroyed the integrity of the process,” said McNee. “The process for handling the ballots was decided in secret and without the knowledge of at least some members of the Board. House Republican Leadership has unilaterally seized control of sensitive evidence and at this point there is simply no way for the public to be certain that these ballots have not been tampered with or tainted.”