ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS 1998-CA-1748-MR FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT NO. 97-Cl-408
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Graves
Appellee, Don Blevins, the Fayette County Clerk, drafted a letter on his private stationery and directed his secretary to deliver it to his employees. The letter reads verbatim:
My good personal friend, Don Todd, is a candidate for State Senator in this November's election.
Don did a great job as council person. He is an honest man and dedicated to Fayette County.
I'd very much appreciate your vote and support for him.
The Fayette County Republican Party Chairman filed a complaint with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance alleging that the letter violated KRS 121.310(1), which provides:
No person shall coerce or direct any employee to vote for any political party or candidate for nomination or election to any office in this state, or threaten to discharge any employee if he votes for any candidate, or discharge any employee on account of his exercise of suffrage, or give out or circulate any statement or report that employees are expected or have been requested or directed by the employer, or by anyone acting for him, to vote for any person, group of persons or measure.
The case was presented to the Registry through an Agreed Statement of Facts Based on its review of the agreed facts, the Registry found probable cause that Blevins had unknowingly violated the statute. The Registry ordered the parties to enter into conciliation proceedings to assess an appropriate civil penalty. Blevins declined to enter into the proceedings. The Registry then referred the case to a three-judge administrative panel for a hearing. The three-judge panel found that Blevins violated KRS 121.310(1) by circulating the letter requesting that Blevins' employees vote for Don Todd.
Blevins appealed the finding of the three-judge panel to the Franklin Circuit Court, which affirmed the panel. Next, Blevins appealed to the Court of Appeals, which allowed Blevins to mount a facial constitutional challenge, and ultimately held that the statute was unconstitutional on its face. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the statute's constitutional flaw was that the phrase "have been requested" cast too wide a net and prohibited any number of examples of innocent (non-coercive) political speech Consequently, the Court of Appeals held ...