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Grimes: Gubernatorial Candidate Curtis Can't Use E-Signatures For Kentucky Ballot Petition

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Independent candidate for governor Drew Curtis needs to get 5,000 signatures by Aug. 11 in order to appear on the ballot in November’s general election.

Curtis, who runs news aggregation website, was hoping to gather some of the signatures online. But on Wednesday Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s chief election official, said online signatures won’t count towards his petition.

“As the Kentucky Supreme Court has recognized, the purpose of the information required on a petition of candidacy is to enable verification of the signers’ identities,” said Lynn Zellen, a spokesperson for Grimes’s office.

“In order to serve that purpose, filing officials must be able to compare a signature on a petition to the signature on a voter registration card. That would not be possible with an electronic signature.”

During an interview on Tuesday, Curtis said he had received approval to use e-signatures for his petition but after the interview Curtis’ spokesperson said they had just received word that Grimes had ruled against the method.

Curtis says that garnering e-signatures would be more secure than getting signatures on a paper petition.

“Because we can do things like block out all non-Kentucky IP addresses from signing up, we can instantly do an address check, so this thing will be pretty locked-down,” Curtis said. “You can prevent people with the same IP address from signing the same thing with a different name really easily,” Curtis said.

University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas says that there hasn’t been much of a precedent for allowing e-signature petitions across the country because major parties usually do the work for the candidates.

“Traditionally you always get a decent number of signatures–more than what’s needed–but for major party candidates that’s rarely a problem because the party apparatus helps them. They know how to do signature drives,” Douglas said.

Douglas also said that candidates typically get far more than the required number of signatures in case some of them are deemed to be ineligible and thrown out

Curtis announced his candidacy in January along with his wife, Heather, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Curtis says he wants to fix the pension system, battle against special interest money in politics and use tax breaks to attract tech businesses and a tech-savvy workforce.

Curtis touts 50,000 loyal Fark readers across Kentucky and has already obtained 3,500 signatures in person. He said the remaining 1,500 signatures shouldn’t be a problem, with or without e-signatures.

“I hate to sound like it’s in the bag necessarily because until it is, it’s not, but I feel fairly confident about it,” Curtis said.

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Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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