If the General Assembly will not ban outright the practice of vote hauling on election day and it wont the next best thing is legislation introduced in the House last week putting the practice under a strong state microscope.
For anyone not familiar with vote hauling, particularly as it is practiced in some areas of Eastern Kentucky, it involves candidates for office paying people to transport voters to the polls. There is nothing inherently illegal with that unless money changes hands between the hauler and the voter. That becomes vote buying and it is illegal.
And far-too regularly, people go off to prison when they are caught and convicted.
Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, is sponsor of House Bill 658 that permits candidates to pay for vote hauling, but the candidates would be required to maintain detailed records of the names and addresses of haulers, and the haulers in turn would have to give the candidate the names and addresses of everyone they drive to the polls.
The information then would have to be submitted to the state Registry of Election Finance, and the data would then be available for public scrutiny and official investigation should questions of impropriety arise.
We still believe an outright ban on vote hauling is the best course, with counties picking up the cost of transporting voters to the polls who need such assistance. But thats an additional election cost counties will oppose strongly.
The detailed accounting required in HB-658 brings a degree of accountability to the practice that at least puts candidates who pay to transport voters to the polls on notice that they must abide by the law.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson has endorsed the bill.
Too often, legislation introduced this late in a General Assembly session tends to be mere window dressing that wont make it through the long legislative process. We hope that isnt the case with HB-658. It addresses a problem that has long plagued elections in too many counties.
If we are going to keep vote hauling, we must bring an end to vote buying.