- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal appeals court ruling Friday will allow Kentucky to prohibit campaign activity on public property near polling places but not on private property.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a permanent injunction issued three days earlier by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman, who said the state law violates First Amendment speech rights.

A three-judge appeals panel agreed with Bertelsman as far as allowing electioneering on private property but lifted the part of the injunction that applied to public property or polling locations.

The case was brought in June by John Russell, a Campbell County businessman who had campaign signs removed from his business’ yard on Election Day in 2012 and 2014. The signs were removed by sheriff’s deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place at a church in Cold Spring.

With less than three weeks until the general election, the judges said the injunction would have left Kentucky as the only state without a buffer zone around polling places and could have caused voter confusion, coming so close to the election.

“This thoughtful and balanced ruling gives our client the result he asked for, protects other Kentuckians’ private property rights, while making sure that there is protection for voters at the polling sites themselves,” Russell’s attorney, Christopher Wiest of Crestview Hills, said in an email Friday night to The Associated Press.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway called the buffer zone an important safeguard against abuse when he brought the appeal this week.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman in Conway’s office, said with the upcoming elections, the ruling Friday “will help protect voters that are going to the polls.”

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement she is “glad the Court of Appeals granted this important relief to help prevent voter intimidation and election fraud in the upcoming election and to avoid confusion on November 4th.”

Grimes and Conway were among several state and local officials named as defendants in the lawsuit challenging the law.

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