By Greg Bird
Some local citizens are questioning the validity of the recent petition calling for a county-wide vote on the possibility of alcohol sales in McCreary County. Though there are some confirmed forgeries on the petition, it appears the voters will still get the opportunity to decide the issue in November.
Mike Casada, Pastor at the Whitley City Second Baptist Church, claims his name, along with his wife’s name, was fraudulently placed on the petition, and suspects there may be other forged names as well.
McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie Greene II confirmed that 27 names have been removed from the petition as of Wednesday morning due to concerns over possibly forgery. More than 100 names would have to be stricken from the petition to fall below the threshold to pull the question from the ballot.
Casada said he was notified Monday that his name was on the list of signees by a friend who spotted his name on the list and questioned if it was authentic.
“I don’t know if this is one person, or multiple people doing it,” Casada told the Voice Monday evening. “But somebody has done this with malicious intent.”
“I’m not upset with anyone who signed the petition,” Casada added. “But I don’t want my name to be used to promote it. I want it to be done right. If the county chooses to go wet – we’ll deal with that.”
Casada said once he learned about his name on the petition he contacted Judge Executive Jimmie Greene II and had his name and wife’s name removed from the document. He further stated he, along with Judge Greene, contacted County Attorney Austin Price for legal advice. Casada contended Price stated the presence of fraudulent names doesn’t invalidate the petition as a whole.
Price responded to Casada’s comments with a public post on Facebook. In it he clarified his position to the legitimacy of the petition – even with some fraudulent names.
“In reference to the petition to place alcohol sales on the November ballot, I was misquoted on Facebook as having said that ‘just because the petition has forged names doesn’t mean it is fraudulent,’” he wrote “What I was addressing was in reference to a potentially forged signature on the petition and whether it would invalidate the entire petition. My response was, and still is, that it will not invalidate the entire petition. Common sense tells us that if one forged signature could thwart an entire petition then one unscrupulous person could maintain control over every petition regardless of the number of legitimate signatures. This simply is not the law. I ask that you read KRS 242.020(4), which essentially states that a person whose name has been placed on a petition without his or her knowledge can have his or her name removed upon order of the judge/executive. Clearly, the statute is describing a process of removing a person’s name, not invalidating the entire petition.”
By law a person can only have their name removed from a petition if they are able to prove they did not sign, or authorize someone to sign for them.
According to the Kentucky Revised Statute: “No signer of the petition may withdraw his or her name or have it taken from the petition after the petition has been filed. If the name of any person has been placed on the petition for election without that person’s authority, the person may appear before the county judge/executive before the election is ordered and upon proof that the person’s name was placed on the petition without his or her authority, the person’s name and personal information required in subsection (3) of this section shall be eliminated by an order of the county judge/executive. When the person’s name and personal information has been eliminated, he or she shall not be counted as a petitioner.”
Simply put, if you feel your name was falsely added to the petition, you can see Judge Greene and ask for your name to be removed.
Casada shared his story on Facebook, which led to several people going to the Judge’s office to have their name removed.
Casada has some experience in the wet/dry question. In 2012 he was president of the Political Action Committee formed locally to fight to keep the county dry.
Tony Hansford, the driving force behind circulating the petitions responded to the controversy on Facebook, stating he had no role in placing false names on the petitions, and does not approve of anyone doing so.
“I do not support nor condone, falsifying any type of documentation,” he wrote. “I do want the citizens of McCreary County to know the accusations being made against me personally are not true. There is no way of knowing who signs whose name, but I can tell you that I did not add any names to the petition.”
There is a question as to how an individual would be able to sign using another person’s name without knowing their address and birth date – both of which are required on the petition to be considered a valid signature. If a person or persons did intentionally forge names on the petitions, they would have had to do some research to have the vital information at hand, probably obtaining the personal data through social media.
County Clerk Eric Haynes reiterated his duties when reviewing the petitions and signatures was not to validate each signature, but only to determine if the signed names were registered voters.
Judge Greene stated he intends to submit the petition to the Secretary of State’s Office Friday afternoon so the question can be added to the ballot. By law, any such addition must be sent at least 50 days prior to the election so the ballots can be printed with the correct information.