A judge has voided the results of a 2014 Kentucky county election over allegations that votes were bought with driveway gravel and beer money.
Incumbent Democrat Charles “Doc” Hardin tallied a slim 28-vote win over Republican challenger John Montgomery last November in the race for Judge-Executive of Magoffin County in the eastern part of the state, 3,281 to 3,253.
But last week Circuit Judge John David Preston refused to declare Hardin the winner, ruling the election outcome was the result of fraud and bribery, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported the other day. The paper said Preston issued no finding that Hardin or Montgomery took part in any wrongdoing.
The ruling throws into question Hardin’s status as the county’s top public official. Hardin did not return messages for comment from FoxNews.com
It was the third time in a row a Hardin win at the polls has ended up in court.
The Herald said that as part of his ruling, Preston found that county workers acting under Hardin's direct supervision illegally spread gravel on four or five private driveways just before Election Day.
He also found evidence of at least four votes being sold for cash or the promise of cash. The judge heard testimony about one case in which a man of limited IQ implied he sold his vote for a $50 bill that he used to buy beer.
Finally, the judge found the election was marred by other improprieties that contributed to his ruling.
The case wound up in front of Preston after Montgomery challenged his loss. He told the Herald he ran against Hardin to “restore honesty and integrity to the office.”
He also accused Hardin in court of buying votes when he ran against the Democrat in 2010 and lost. The judge in that case found there were instances of vote buying but refused to void the election.
Hardin secured his 2014 victory only after absentee ballots were counted.
An expert told the judge that 18% of all ballots cast in the race were absentee ballots. He called that a surprising number, suggesting that some “nefarious manipulation” was involved.
The Herald said Hardin has consistently denied involvement in any voter fraud.