There was a time when vote fraud was so pervasive in Clay County, Kentucky that a lot of honest people saw no reason to vote, said Ken Bolin, pastor of Manchester Baptist Church. “They knew it was already bought and paid for,” Bolin said of local races.
Vote-buying is deeply rooted in Eastern Kentucky’s political culture, helping to make the region a hot spot for federal public-corruption cases. From 2002 through 2011, there were 237 public-corruption convictions in the federal Eastern District of Kentucky, compared to 65 in the western district, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It wasn’t the first decade in which the eastern half of the state had one of the highest rates of corruption convictions per capita in the United States.