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Ethics panel declines to act on complaint regarding homeless voters

September 20, 2011 | | Comments Comments

Bill Johnson

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The Executive Branch Ethics Commission has decided to take no action on a complaint filed by Bill Johnson, Republican candidate for secretary of state, over voter registration of homeless people.

Johnson said Tuesday that John Steffen, executive director of the ethics commission, told him that the panel lacks jurisdiction to consider his complaint against Secretary of State Elaine Walker and the State Board of Elections. Steffen declined Monday, after the commission’s regular meeting, to comment on the case, saying the panel can only comment on a case when it acts on it.

Johnson contended in his complaint filed in August that Walker and the elections board are violating the Kentucky Constitution by allowing people who don’t have addresses to register to vote.

He said the elections board was wrong when it notified county clerks on June 30 that they could register voters who have no addresses.

The board said applications should be approved if they have “homeless” or “place to place” listed as addresses. Walker is chairman of the board.

“The homeless, like all Americans, have the right to vote,” Johnson said in his complaint. “However, to exercise that right to vote, all persons must register using the voter registration form and meet residency and precinct requirements.”

Johnson has said that he does not oppose voting by the homeless but said they should have to list addresses, even if those addresses are for shelters.

If all voters aren’t required to have specific addresses, Johnson said, elections could be open to fraud.

Johnson said the commission’s decision not to act on his complaint means it did not investigate it.

“And I do not appreciate my opponent misleading the public by saying my complaint was dismissed,” he said.

Johnson, a Todd County businessman and educator, faces Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Lexington attorney, in the Nov. 8 general election. Grimes has said she doesn’t think homeless people have to list a specific address to vote.

She said through campaign spokesman Jonathan Hurst that it should be embarrassing for Johnson that “his complaint is so without merit that the commission would not take a look at it.”

Asked if he plans to take any legal action against Walker and the elections board, Johnson said, “At this point, my focus will be to win the election and change the policy when I get into office.”

Filed Under: 2015 Statewide RacesElections

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