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Lawsuit seeks access to absentee voter rolls

Associated Press

COVINGTON - A state Senate candidate has filed a lawsuit challenging a law passed last year that keeps absentee voter rolls private until after election.

Deb Sheldon, who is running for the open 24th District seat, said she and other candidates should have access to the names.

County clerks say that candidates previously had asked for the list of people who requested absentee ballots as a way of identifying likely voters.

The lawsuit seeks to make the names public before the May 20 primary. It also asks the court to declare the state law unconstitutional.

The 24th Senate District includes the counties of Campbell, Pendleton and Bracken.

"The purpose of the request was for Mrs. Sheldon and her campaign committee to communicate with those Republicans who were likely voters based on their request for an absentee ballot about her background," the lawsuit states.

Supporters of Kentucky's new law have said it protects privacy and prevents fraud.

Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass, who is one defendant in the lawsuit, said clerks around the state supported the law to make the identity of absentee voters private. He said many had complained that they didn't want others to know they would not be home on Election Day.

"I like the law," Snodgrass said. "It's a privacy issue. All it takes is one house to be broken into. It's an extreme example, but it could happen. I think the people requesting an absentee ballot have a right to privacy."

Sheldon's attorney, Steve Megerle of Covington, said the First Amendment rights of a candidate take precedence.

"We've not been able to find any legislative history showing that when the Legislature took the issue up that there was a compelling state interest that would trump the political speech of a political candidate," Megerle said.

Sheldon, a Republican, has two opponents in the primary - prosecutor Wil Schroder and attorney Brandon Voelker.

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