Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R)

Update: On Friday afternoon, Republican State Senate President Robert Stivers backed off his earlier statements floating the possibility that the Kentucky legislature could reverse the results of this week’s election for governor. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Stivers believes “Gov. Matt Bevin should concede his loss to Democrat Andy Beshear if next week’s recanvass doesn’t significantly change the vote totals.” Our headline has been updated. The original post is below.


With Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin trailing Democrat Andy Beshear by more than 5,000 votes, Bevin’s fellow Republicans in the legislature are now plotting to overturn the results of this week’s election for governor. With all precincts reporting, Beshear leads 49.2 to 48.8, a margin of 5,189 votes. In typical Trumpian fashion, Bevin has repeatedly claimed that the election was marred by “voting irregularities,” but, reported the Louisville Courier Journal on Wednesday, his campaign had “not replied to multiple requests asking for any of those examples.” In a press conference later that day, Bevin offered a few hazy allegations but provided no proof that anything had gone awry during the election.

Bevin has also sought a recanvass of the results. Not that there are any problems to uncover, but a recanvass—which differs from a recount—wouldn’t find them anyway. In a recanvass, officials simply check the tallies reported by each voting machine and compare them to the numbers that were reported to the state Board of Elections. (To seek a recount, in which all ballots would be individually reviewed, Bevin would have to petition a court and pay the entire cost.)

Barring an impossible profusion of tabulation errors, then, the end result won’t change as a result of a recanvass—something Bevin knows well, since a recanvass of his narrow 2015 primary win didn’t budge his 83-vote lead by even a single vote. In fact, a recanvass has never altered the outcome of an election in Kentucky.

The goal, however, is not to clarify the results but rather sow confusion about them—and, if state Senate President Robert Stivers has his way, throw the election to the GOP-dominated legislature. Speaking to reporters right after the election, Stivers cited Section 90 of the state constitution, which specifies that “[c]ontested elections” for governor “shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly.” It’s a provision that hasn’t been used since 1899.

There are no grounds, of course, for such a contest, but Stivers is happy to invent one: He said it was “appropriate” that Bevin hadn’t conceded because he thinks that most of the votes received by Libertarian John Hicks, who won just under 2% of the vote, “would have gone to Bevin.”

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