Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

October 23, 2012

Ky., W.Va. officials: No trading pills for votes

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The chief elections officials from Kentucky and West Virginia warned their states' politicians Tuesday that they'll be closely watched in the upcoming election to make sure they're not trading money, favors or drugs for votes.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said the prescription drug epidemic raises the possibility of pills being traded for ballots.

The state has a long history of election fraud, traditionally involving people paying cash for votes or doing favors such as spreading gravel on driveways. But Kentucky also has had instances of prescription drugs being swapped for votes in recent years.

The widespread abuse of painkillers has pushed up Kentucky's crime rate. More Kentuckians now die from prescription overdoses than traffic crashes. Grimes said elections officials can't ignore those statistics when it comes to the Nov. 6 election.

"In addition to putting our families at risk, the demand for prescription drugs is also putting our elections at risk," she said during a press conference at the state Capitol. "As Kentucky's secretary of state and chief election officer, I'm here to tell you that our elections are not and will not be for sale."

Allegations of pills being traded for votes came in the 2008 federal indictment of former mayoral candidate Bob Madon of Pineville, Ky., who later pleaded guilty to buying votes. The indictment charged Madon with giving voters cash and pills for their votes.

Grimes said protecting the integrity of the election process is crucial and that swapping votes for pills or dollar bills won't be tolerated.

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said election officials in her state also will be on the lookout for criminals who would chip away at democracy by buying votes.

"Our states, West Virginia and Kentucky, do have a reputation of having some people who would be unscrupulous and want to manipulate our election process," Tennant said. "We are working to change that culture."

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