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Campbell County commissioner's primary win vacated, opponent's name to be on November ballot

Brian Painter
Posted at 9:03 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 00:12:53-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Campbell County Commissioner Brian Painter's name will not be on the ballot in November after a judge ruled he violated election laws while campaigning.

Video shows Painter and his wife putting out election literature for poll workers inside the Campbell County Administration Building during a May 4 training. Painter spoke with some volunteers and left ink pens with his name on them inside the building.

Some of those poll workers took part in early absentee voting later that day, according to an affidavit from Deputy Clerk Rhonda Wright. Kentucky election law says no one can electioneer, or actively campaign, "when in-person absentee voting is being conducted in the building."

Because of that, Judge Charles L. Cunningham Jr. said Painter's win in the May 17 primary must be vacated.

"The candidate receiving the next highest number of votes, David Fischer, shall be shown on the ballot for the November general election as the Republican party candidate for that seat," Cunningham said.

Painter passed out 158 pieces of literature. He won the primary by 106 votes. While there is no evidence he converted a certain number of Fischer voters, Cunningham said data shows Painter's electioneering "likely altered the voting such that the election was not 'fair.'"

"It is not unreasonable to conclude that Painter's efforts in those early days, including the electioneering Fischer complains of, moved some early votes his way," Cunningham said.

Court records show Painter's actions have been the standard in Campbell County for the past 25 years.

"This is just mind-boggling that you allow people to electioneer to poll workers in a polling place," said attorney Steven Megerle, who represents Fischer. "The statute is absolutely clear. You can't."

Cunningham's ruling echoes Megerle's words. The judge said candidates may have electioneered when there was no in-person absentee voting in the building, which would not violate the law. He also said the fact it has been allowed historically "is of no consequence."

"This 'tradition' interjects the same taint into elections as insider trading interjects into the process of publicly trading stocks," Cunningham said. "Sure, anybody could buy or sell those securities — but who knew to do so?"

Fischer said he decided to file a lawsuit believing the law-breaking would "continue over the next quarter-century."

"When you find out, and you find out how long it’s been going on ... my opponent had had seven prior elections, primaries and generals," Fischer said. "It’s about right and wrong. Not about Ds, Rs, and Is. And this is wrong."

Painter did not respond to a call for comment. He has until July 6 to file an appeal.

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