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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin asks for recanvass in governor election. What happens next?

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin Wednesday did what he has done so often during his term as governor — he refused to back down.

Bevin requested a recanvass in the race for governor, which Democrat Andy Beshear won by 5,189 votes, according to unofficial vote results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections. Bevin has refused to concede the election.

“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,” Davis Paine, Bevin’s campaign manager, said in a statement.

At the governor’s mansion Wednesday evening, Bevin refused to take questions but criticized Alison Lundergan Grimes for going on CNN while votes were being counted and claimed “thousands of absentee ballots were illegally counted” and that people were turned away from the polls. He provided no evidence to back up his claims, saying instead his campaign was in the process of getting affidavits.

He did not say whether he plans to formally contest the election.

“I’m confident that in the end the right results will be delivered,” Bevin said. “And I will be entirely comfortable with whichever way they go if I am confident the process has been served. That’s really all I want.”

Now that Bevin has formally requested a recanvass, county boards of election will meet November 14 at 9 a.m. to recheck vote totals from each machine in every county. They will also re-tabulate absentee ballots.

While recanvasses are not uncommon in close elections, it’s extremely unlikely a recanvass would change vote totals by more than a few votes.

“Recanvasses hardly ever shift vote totals,” said Josh Douglas, an elections law professor at the University of Kentucky. “You’re talking about maybe a couple of votes statewide.”

Democrats were quick to declare the election over and say Beshear had won fair and square. House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said it was time to put politics aside and move forward.

“He needs to present [the irregularities] to the public,” Adkins said. “Lets see them. I thought it was unusual during his speech last night to say he had proof of that.”

Could state lawmakers pick next governor?

After a recanvass, things could get more complicated quickly. The State Board of Elections has until November 25th to certify the election, basically declaring that the results in all 120 counties are accurate. If Beshear is the winner when they certify the results, he can be inaugurated as the 63rd governor of Kentucky on Dec. 10.

Section 73 of the Kentucky Constitution says the inauguration of a governor must take place on the fifth Tuesday following the election.

That doesn’t mean Bevin can’t still challenge the results. According to state law, he would have 30 days after the election is certified to file an election contest with the Kentucky General Assembly. In order to seek a recount of votes, Bevin would have to contest the election.

If he contests the election, lawmakers would form a committee of 11 randomly selected members of the General Assembly — eight from the House of Representatives and three from the Senate. The committee could take depositions, order a recount of votes, and make a recommendation to the full legislature.

The General Assembly would then sit in a joint session and decide the outcome of the election.

How often are governor results contested?

Election contests in the governor’s race are extremely rare. The last one was in 1899, when Democrat William Goebel won the election over Republican William S. Taylor because the General Assembly invalidated enough Republican votes to give Goebel the office.

Goebel was assassinated days later.

Beshear remained confident he would be the next governor of Kentucky during a news conference in Louisville Wednesday morning.

“The outcome isn’t going to change,” Beshear said. “It’s over.”

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Daniel Desrochers has been the political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader since 2016. He previously worked for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.
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