letter editor4 300MADISONVILLE, Ky. (6/12/18) — As we move on toward the General Election in November, the Hopkins County Sheriff race is embroiled in another contest in the courts before the casting of votes in the fall. As revisited in the Wednesday SurfKy news article, as well as in the Thursday edition of The Messenger, Jeremy Crick filed to run as the Democratic Party candidate for the office of Hopkins County Sheriff at 3 p.m. the afternoon of the filing deadline. As it turns out, his paperwork was not compliant with the clear requirements of the statutes and regulations regarding candidate filings. Specifically, the filing for the party nomination includes the signature of two persons who are residents of the jurisdiction of the office being sought, and who are registered voters of the party for which the candidate is filing to run. One of the signatures was that of his daughter, who actually was registered to vote as a Republican.

This discrepancy makes the filing to run as the candidate of the Democratic Party for Sheriff non-compliant with the law, disqualifying Mr. Crick as a candidate for this election cycle. This challenge to the qualification of Mr. Crick to be on the November ballot would seem to be credible and straightforward. While certainly it is the right of Mr. Crick through counsel to seek to dismiss the suit disqualifying his candidacy, the reported reasoning for seeking the dismissal is curious.

First, the claim is made that his daughter made a “simple mistake”, and “not at all unusual”. However true, it does not change the fact of the error and the consequence that follows, i.e., disqualification of the filing. That Mr. Crick’s daughter has since updated her registration is irrelevant to the current issue, since under the statutes and regulations regarding elections and voting, the deadline for changing party of registration in the current election cycle was December 31. Any change of registration after that date would not be effective until the next election cycle. Had there been a contested Democratic primary race for Sheriff, Mr. Crick’s daughter would not have been able to cast a vote for him. She apparently had not voted in a Democratic primary election since her registration, or she would have learned then that she was registered as a Republican. The precinct officers would have refused her voting, unless she wanted to vote in the Republican primary being conducted concurrently.

Mr. Crick’s attorney oddly also argued that the statute in question is an “outdated law”, inferring that believing an existing law is “outdated” I am justified in violating or disregarding it. There is a process for addressing the question of a statute thought to be outdated or otherwise undesirable. It is called legislative action – you make your case, advocate for your position and work to change or abolish that law. Is Mr. Crick through his attorney asserting that the population for which he seeks to serve as the chief county law enforcement officer is free to disregard and violate laws believed to be “outdated?” Does he believe even that the courts are empowered to strike down laws on the basis of a claim that the law is “outdated?”

The next claim is that KRS 118.125(2) is a procedure for being placed on the primary ballot, and that, since no other Democrat filed to run, Crick is then unopposed and the matter of the filing is irrelevant. In essence the argument is that, since no one else filed to run, the non-compliance of Mr. Crick’s filing is a non-issue, and does not matter – a claim that the law does not apply to him in this case. Indeed the reported position is that, since no one else filed, and he would thus be the default nominee, to disqualify him on the basis of failure to meet the statutory requirements for filing would “deprive voters of their choice”.

The compelling imperative of the law in this matter, however, is not to assure that voters have a choice, but that the procedures that govern the conduct of elections are followed, to preserve the integrity of that electoral process. We call this the rule of law, which in this case is rather clear and straightforward. If we do not “play by the rules” and respect the lines that define what is “in-bounds”, then the game is corrupted.

The third claim reported is that Will Coursey is not eligible to challenge the qualification of Mr. Crick’s candidacy because he is a Commissioner on the Hopkins County Board of Elections. This argument is remarkable, in that the role of a Commissioner on the Board of Elections includes acting to assure the integrity of the electoral process. While any registered voter in the jurisdiction involved presumably has standing to pursue a challenge to the qualification of a candidate, a Commissioner on the Board of Elections would certainly have standing, indeed an obligation to raise any question that emerges.

The Certificate of Nomination, incidentally, is issued to candidates who have filed and that have either won their respective primary contest, or who are unopposed for their party nomination. The question of the legitimacy of Mr. Crick’s candidacy was an open and unresolved issue when issuing these documents. The issuance of this notice does not represent validation of his qualification to run, only that he would be the candidate for his party, since he was unopposed, should the challenge to his qualification be resolved in his favor.

Process is our protection. As a nation, we have given great value to the importance of due process, to observe it and to uphold it. It is of no small concern that a candidate for the office of Sheriff, the chief county officer of enforcing the law, would not have been careful and attentive enough to the law to be sure that he was in compliance with the statutes he aspires to assure are followed.

Franklin Stevenson

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