Election 2019 Kentucky Politics

On Thursday, all 120 Kentucky counties will double-check vote totals collected during last week’s gubernatorial election and make sure they sent the correct results to state election officials.

The process is called a recanvass and has been requested by Gov. Matt Bevin after initial results showed him losing his race for reelection by about 5,000 votes to Attorney General Andy Beshear.

A recanvass requires local election boards to double-check the totals of all of their voting machines, add up the results again and make sure they match what they sent to the State Board of Elections on Election Day.

Officials will not double check the votes on every ballot, just the totals.

Recanvasses are common in Kentucky elections, but they rarely yield more votes for the candidates and have never changed the outcome of an election.

One of Bevin’s opponents in the 2015 Republican Primary Election — now-Congressman James Comer — requested a recanvass of that contest after he lost to Bevin by 83 votes. The recanvass produced no new votes.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders requested a recanvass of Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary election after initial returns showed him losing to Hillary Clinton by 1,924 votes. The recanvass produced 13 additional votes for Sanders.

At the time, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes attributed the vote difference to “provisional votes and a discrepancy in absentee ballot totals in two counties.”

State political leaders from both parties have encouraged Bevin to concede the election if the recanvass doesn’t produce different results.

But Bevin has hinted at challenging the election further. During a press conference the day after Election Day, he made unsubstantiated claims that thousands of absentee ballots had been improperly counted and other allegations.

Bevin’s only other option to challenge the election results is to file an official election contest, which would require the Republican-led state legislature to determine the outcome of the election.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers — who initially floated the idea of an election contest on election night — told the Courier Journal on Friday that Bevin should concede the election if the recanvass doesn’t significantly change vote totals.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell weighed in on Monday morning, saying that barring “some dramatic reversal on recanvass…that we’ll have a different governor in three weeks.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.