The Secretary of State received early morning complaints about voter intimidation at polling places in the hotly contested special election in the 18th state Senate District Tuesday.

The race features Democrat state Rep. Robin Webb of Grayson, Republican Dr. Jack F. Ditty of Bellefonte and Independent Guy E. Gibbons Jr. They are seeking to fill the seat vacated by Republican Charlie Borders who resigned to accept an appointment to the Public Service Commission.

Les Fugate, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, said he began fielding complaints about exit polling at precincts in Carter and Lewis counties at 6:30 a.m. EDT.

He said exit pollers are asking voters before they enter the polls for personal information and also asking them to request a list from poll workers of who has already voted - which is illegal in Kentucky though not in all states.

Fugate said the apparent intent is to use that information to get voters for their candidates to the polls by identifying who has and who hasn’t already voted.

“We got word (Monday) they’d be using exit polling, using it to determine who had voted,” Fugate said. Exit polling is legal and often used by campaigns, political parties and media to predict election outcomes. But normally voters are asked to voluntarily identify how they voted as they leave the polls.

He said poll workers complained to the county clerks who contacted him.

“Asking for personal information such as names and phone numbers could be seen as voter intimidation,” Fugate said. “But the law clearly says you can’t have a check-off list of who has voted.”

He said county clerks and poll workers have been told to warn the people asking voters for information to stop. After one warning, he said, they can be forced to leave if a second offense occurs.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort, Ky. he may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com.

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