On Election Day 2019, an apparent shift in power was viewed nationwide with bated breath. Republican Governor Matt Bevin, one of the lowest approved governors in the nation, had apparently lost to Democrat Andy Beshear, son of former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear. However, the younger Beshear has yet to be declared governor, as Bevin has called for a recanvass. Therefore, the election is unable to be certified.
A recanvass, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, does not mean the same thing as a recount. Kentucky law actually prohibits direct recounts in gubernatorial elections. A recanvass is the process of reprinting receipts from voting machines that tally the results, sending them to be verified by the Secretary of State. The only possible change that could occur would be some clerical errors, which in all likelihood would not grant him the 5,000 votes he would need to win re-election. The results must be certified by November 25th.
However, the process could continue further after that. If Bevin submits a written notice contesting the results within thirty days of the certification, a committee will be formed by the Kentucky General Assembly to assess the complaint. This composite group of state representatives will review depositions and make a decision as to whether any wrongdoing has taken place. The committee is formed by lottery, but in all likelihood this committee will have a majority of Republicans, as they control the state House by a margin of 61-39 and the state Senate by a margin of 29-9.
The details of what fraud Bevin wishes to bring to light are unclear. In the days after the election, in front of the governor’s mansion, he alleged that “thousands” of absentee ballots were cast illegally. However, no evidence has been presented by any personel in the Kentucky government. Critics warn of the dangers of questioning the legitimacy of elections without evidence, with several members of the GOP, like Kentucky’s Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, encouraging Bevin to accept his loss or provide substantial evidence.
The parallels to President Trump’s claims of widespread fraud in the 2016 Presidential Election are clear, which makes sense, considering President Trump held a rally in Kentucky the night before the election in support of Governor Bevin. Trump formed a committee to investigate election fraud in his administration, however, they disbanded after less than a year when they turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. The situation in Kentucky could be a small-scale test of how institutions react to claims of fraud in elections when the results are unfavorable. For, in the year 2020, there may be a similar situation, and its outcome could spell trouble for democracy. It all depends on how far Bevin wishes to take this. Beshear is confident, forming a transition team and preparing to take control over the governorship.
Only time will tell if Bevin will ever be ready to take defeat with grace.