The Republicans on the Jim Glenn election challenge committee seized the absentee ballots from that election on Wednesday, using Kentucky State Troopers to remove them from the Daviess County Clerk’s office and transport them unsecured to Frankfort. The ballots are supposedly in the office of the House Clerk, although that has not been confirmed. The House Clerk serves under the direction of the Republican Speaker of the House, David Osborne.
This action was taken without the knowledge of the Democratic members of the committee, who learned of it during a meeting of the committee on Thursday.
State law requires that uncounted absentee ballots be kept in a locked box with three locks, with the keys to those locks being held by members of the local board of elections. In a picture taken by the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, the ballots are sitting on a desk, held together by only a rubber band, and being examined by the chief deputy sheriff.
Glenn lawyer files motion
Anna Whites, lawyer for Jim Glenn, filed a motion Friday morning calling on the committee to now exclude the absentee ballots, as they are “spoiled evidence.” As noted in the motion (attached to this story):
Those ballots were held in the custody and control of the County Clerk from the date of the election until 1/9/19. On that date, they were seized by House Majority and hidden in the House Majority’s offices. The evidence may have been tampered with, opened, altered or otherwise changed from its original condition. There is no way to prove that the evidence has not been spoiled.
Those seventeen invalid absentee ballots, the only evidence being relied upon to attempt to invalidate the election of State Representative Jim Glenn, were taken from the neutral legal custodian of that evidence on 1/9/19 and are now in the hands of the Republican majority. The evidence is not in the hands of the County Clerk, the KSP or this Committee. It is held by an interested and involved partisan individual and his staff.
Response from officials in Owensboro
Forward Kentucky phoned the office of Daviess County clerk Leslie McCarty. An employee declined to comment, referring the call to the county attorney’s office. “Anybody that calls about this case has to talk to the county attorney,” she said.
The county clerk, Leslie McCarty, is a Republican. County Attorney Claud Porter is a Democrat. An employee for his office said he was in court today and unavailable for comment.
Statement by Kentucky Democratic Party
The KDP released a statement on Friday (attached below), calling on the chair 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.
Referencing a photo in the Messenger-Inquirer, Marissa McNee, spokesperson for the party, said,
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. 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.”
The statement also noted that
“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.”
Finally, the KDP is calling on Chairman Petrie to “immediately release the following information to the public:
- Any communication with the Daviess County Clerk directing the release of 17 absentee ballots;
- A complete list of names of every individual who touched, carried, transported, handled, or had contact with the 17 absentee ballots in question;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- A complete list of names of every individual who has access to the 17 absentee ballots;
- 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;
- Any communication with any member(s) of the Election Contest Board regarding the release, receipt, location or status of the 17 absentee ballots.
The statement concludes:
“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. 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.”
Statement by House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins
“The other Democratic members on the committee and I were unaware that these disputed absentee ballots were being transferred to the House clerk’s office. We have serious concerns about this and made those known during our meeting yesterday. We believe any actions, especially those like this, should be spelled out clearly before anything is done.”
Forward Kentucky is reaching out to other offices and officials for comment and further clarification. As soon as we hear back from them, we will update this story.