Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is formally asking for a recanvass of Tuesday's gubernatorial election, in which vote totals show Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear ahead by just over 5,000 votes. A recanvass is a double-checking of the vote totals and rarely produces different results.
In a statement, Bevin's campaign manager said: "The people of Kentucky deserve a fair and honest election. With reports of irregularities, we are exercising the right to ensure that every lawful vote was counted."
Bevin and his campaign have provided no details about election irregularities that they say took place during the race.
As of Wednesday, the number of election law complaints reported to the attorney general's office was on par with those made in 2015.
University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas said that other than a recanvass, Bevin's option is contesting the election, which would be settled by the Republican-led legislature. Kentucky law has no provision for a recount in gubernatorial races. But Douglas was skeptical a recanvass would make much difference for Bevin.
"Well, I think the 5,000-vote differential out of 1.4 million cast — yeah, although it sounds small — is actually a pretty large amount when it comes to the likelihood of the vote totals changing in any of these post-election disputes," Douglas said.
Recanvasses are commonly requested in close races in Kentucky, but they have never produced a different election outcome and rarely produce a different vote total.
In 2015, Bevin's opponent in the Republican primary, James Comer, requested a recanvass of the contest that Bevin won by 83 votes, producing no change in vote totals.
In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders requested a recanvass in Kentucky's Democratic primary. The process yielded 13 more votes for Sanders.
In a statement, Beshear campaign manager Sam Newton expressed hope that the recanvass would be the last step in the process.
"Last night, the people of Kentucky elected Andy Beshear as their next governor. Today, Governor-Elect Beshear is already working on his transition so that he can best serve the people of Kentucky on day one," Newton said.
The recanvass is scheduled to take place on Nov. 14 at 9 a.m.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin isn't giving up the fight. Not only is he not conceding the race to the Democrat Andy Beshear, who has claimed victory, Bevin has now formally requested that the state double-check the vote totals from Tuesday's gubernatorial election. It's an official process called vote recanvassing. The current tallies show Bevin behind Beshear by about 5,000 votes. Bevin has alleged that there's been fraud in the race. Here he is at a press conference in front of the governor's mansion yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
MATT BEVIN: What we know is that there really are a number of significant irregularities, the specifics of which we're in the process of getting affidavits and other information that will help us to get a better understanding of what did or did not happen. Those will be forthcoming in the days ahead.
MARTIN: Ryland Barton is the capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio. And he was at that press conference, and he joins us now. Good morning.
RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: So we heard the governor there say there were a number of significant irregularities in his characterization - like what?
BARTON: We don't know yet. He has not gone into any detail about any of the irregularities he's claimed. He says they need to be corroborated, but we still haven't seen any evidence.
This recanvassing process, it's kind of like a light double-checking of the voter rolls. There's not really expected to be any difference in the outcome. And whenever there have been differences in recanvassing in recent years, it's only been slight ones. And so we're really not sure what's going to happen next, especially with these claims of voter fraud.
MARTIN: Explain the significance of all this. What's at play politically in the state?
BARTON: So Kentucky is known as a red state, in part because of who voters here choose for president and who they've elected, especially in federal offices. But Kentucky is actually - it has more Democrats registered in the state and that - there's 49% registered Democrats compared to 42%.
And really what's at stake is, you know, a whole lot of big policies at the state level. Andy Beshear, Bevin's opponent, has said that he wouldn't, you know, do away with the state's Medicaid - or he would stop Bevin's attempt to reshape the state's Medicaid system. That's the work requirements and whatnot. And Bevin wants to continue moving forward with a lot of his conservative priorities that he's pushed for over the last few years.
MARTIN: So what's Andy Beshear saying about this request to double-check the votes?
BARTON: He hasn't - he's been just moving forward with - as governor-elect, in his own words, at this point. He's been putting together his administration. And he says that the results are in. The Kentuckians have weighed in. And so, yeah, he's moving forward, and Bevin is asking for this double-checking at this point.
MARTIN: I mean, is the double-check going to happen? What's the timeline for that?
BARTON: So that - it happens next Tuesday. And then a little bit after that on November 25, that's when the election would ultimately be certified by the State Board of Elections. But then there's a window, another month after that, in which Bevin could request something called an election contest which kind of takes it to this whole nother level where the legislature would actually come into play here and decide the outcome of the election. Bevin has not weighed in on whether he would do that yet, though.
MARTIN: And the legislature is controlled by the GOP, right?
BARTON: Legislature is supermajority Republican in both the House and Senate. This process would require the legislature to create a small committee that would ultimately determine Governor Bevin's allegations to determine whether they're true or not and determine the outcome of the election.
MARTIN: All right. Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio for us. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
BARTON: Thanks a lot, Rachel.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE GREG FOAT GROUP'S "THE DANCERS WALTZ") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.