Without providing specific details or evidence, Gov. Matt Bevin is claiming that during Tuesday’s gubernatorial election thousands of absentee ballots were improperly counted and that eligible voters were turned away from polls.
The announcement comes after Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear garnered more than 5,000 more votes than Bevin during the election according to unofficial results.
Bevin made the assertions during a press conference on Wednesday evening at the governor’s mansion, shortly after announcing that he had requested a formal recanvass of the vote totals.
Without providing evidence or answering questions, Bevin said there were “a number of significant irregularities” during the election and that his campaign was still gathering information.
“Those will be forthcoming in the days ahead,” Bevin said. “But that’s the cart getting in front of the horse because none of this will really be followed through on until after the recanvassing process.”
Bevin has not said whether he will pursue an election contest — a process where Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature would determine the outcome of the election.
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers hinted that Bevin might officially contest the election during an interview on Tuesday night.
During his sprawling announcement late Wednesday afternoon, Bevin made vague claims and comparisons, bringing up Kentucky’s history of voter fraud. Bevin singled out Magoffin County as a place where voter fraud takes place, brought up a prominent North Carolina election fraud case and suggested that Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes might be involved in some wrongdoing.
“For her to jump the gun on this and interject herself into this, a little suspect as well,” Bevin said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Beshear began the process of assembling his administration, naming a chair of his transition team and laying out his “first week” priorities like undoing Bevin’s Medicaid waiver.
Bevin said Beshear was doing the right thing by moving forward, but said he wasn’t ready to end the race.
“He should be putting together a transition team and he should be having conversations with the expectation that if he is the person with the most votes at the end of this that in fact he should be ready to take the responsibility of being governor,” Bevin said.
Official Complaints On Par With Other Years
The attorney general’s office is charged with monitoring and reviewing claims of voter irregularities and fraud.
The number of official election complaints reported to the attorney general’s office on Tuesday was only slightly larger than those made during the 2015 governor election.
The office can’t provide details on specific cases, but said it had received 123 calls to its election law violations hotline as of Wednesday, compared to 79 complaints during the 2015 gubernatorial election — a year with lower voter turnout.
For comparison’s sake, the AG’s office recorded 216 calls to the election fraud hotline after the 2016 election, and more than 500 calls during the 2018 election when voter turnout was nearly 48 percent.
“The most common questions received through the hotline were procedural or general legal questions,” said Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown. “We have not received any information regarding the referenced irregularities.”
Brown is also leading Beshear’s gubernatorial transition team.
The attorney general’s office has a rule that prevents Beshear from participating in the complaint intake process. Beshear has also recused himself from complaints involving the governor or the attorney general race.
With 100 percent of counties reporting, Beshear holds the lead with 5,189 more votes than Bevin. The Associated Press has so far declined to call the race for Beshear even as the attorney general moves forward with his transition plan.
Most of the complaint calls came after polls opened Tuesday morning. Many of the complaints involved election fraud allegations, election officials and the residency of voters. Others complained of disruptions at the polls and issues with voting machines. At least one person called the hotline with an allegation of “dead people voting.”
However, the total number of complaints in Tuesday’s election represent only a small fraction of the 1,455,161 votes cast — about 42 percent of Kentucky voters.
University of Louisville Political Science Professor Dewey Clayton said there are always going to be a certain amount of complaints, but fears of widespread election fraud are overblown. Clayton doesn’t believe the complaints received over the last two days are enough to be a cause for concern.
“I don’t think those are significant enough to warrant a change in the outcome or to be honest with you, to really warrant a recount, or a recanvass as it were,” Clayton said.
It’s possible that at least one complaint came from a Jefferson County polling location that was on lockdown this afternoon after a report of a person with a firearm near the school, said Nore Ghibaudy, Jefferson County Clerk spokesman.
Residents who planned on voting at Bowen Elementary School in Moorland were turned away for about 45 minutes before reopening, he said. Voters at that polling place received extra time to vote to make up for the difference.
But even in Jefferson County — the state’s largest population center — elections officials didn’t see anything too far out of the ordinary.
“No, no, nothing that we would consider to be irregular in Jefferson County or throughout the state. I haven’t gathered that from anybody,” Ghibaudy said.
At the end of his press conference on Wednesday, Bevin said he would respect the outcome of the race “if I’m confident the process has been served.”
“I’m confident that in the end the right results will be delivered and I will be entirely comfortable with whichever way they go,” Bevin said.