Saturday, May 17, 2003

Richards asks feds for fraud hotline



By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jody Richards said Friday he wants federal authorities to run a hotline for voters to report improprieties they see during Tuesday's primary election.

The state already has a hotline, which is operated in the attorney general's office. But Richards questioned its credibility because Attorney General Ben Chandler is one of his opponents.

"While we make no allegation that the attorney general will handle any complaint in anything other than a usual and proper manner, we feel that in order to remove even the hint of a conflict of interest, we believe that a separate voter fraud hotline should be set up for next week's election," Richards said.

Richards, who is speaker of the Kentucky House, sent a letter Friday to federal prosecutors and the FBI asking for the hotline. He released that letter to the public Friday during a campaign stop in eastern Kentucky, where 18 people have been indicted on election fraud charges this year.

One of those indicted, Pikeville businessman Ross Harris, played host at a fundraiser in December that brought in $134,000 for Chandler's campaign. Harris pleaded innocent in U.S. District Court in Pikeville.

In the letter, Richards said he respects efforts Chandler has made to respond to allegations of election fraud. However, Richards said, people have expressed concern that their only means of reporting vote fraud is the state-run hotline.

Chandler said he supports Richards' idea for a federal hotline.

"I welcome any help we can get to combat voter fraud," he said during a campaign stop in Louisville. "It's very important that elections are clean."




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