Matt Bevin Requests Recanvass In Kentucky

Governor Matt Bevin still won't concede the Kentucky Governor's race.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who seems to have clearly lost his bid for a second term, still has not conceded the race to apparent victor Andy Beshear and instead asked the Kentucky Secretary of State to conduct a recanvass of the vote that seems unlikely to significantly change the outcome of the election:

Matt Bevin isn’t going quietly.

Kentucky’s Republican governor is broadly casting doubt on the results of Tuesday’s election, with the unofficial tally showing him trailing Democrat Andy Beshear by just over 5,000 votes, or about four-tenths of a percentage point.

Speaking before reporters Wednesday night in Frankfort, the state capital, Bevin said his campaign would be seeking an official recanvass of the results — but it is also compiling evidence of “irregularities” in the voting process to be investigated.

“What we know is that there really are a number of irregularities,” he said, adding that “there’s more than a little bit of history of vote fraud in our state.”

Without providing details, Bevin cited “thousands of absentee ballots that were illegally counted,” reports of voters being “incorrectly turned away” from polling places and “a number of machines that didn’t work properly.” He said his campaign would provide more information as it is gathered, and he did not take questions from reporters.

“We simply want to ensure that there is integrity in the process,” Bevin said at the close of his statement. “We owe this to the people of Kentucky.”

Beshear, who declared victory Tuesday night, is eager to move on and seal his lead in the vote count. At a Wednesday morning press conference in Louisville, where both candidates spent election night, Beshear said he was formally launching his transition team, with only about a month to go until the scheduled Dec. 10 inauguration.

“We’re confident in the outcome of the election, but today is about moving forward,” Beshear said. “The election is over. No one else is going to cast a vote. It ended last night.”

The Associated Press has declined to call the contest, citing the relatively tight margin and Bevin’s protest.

The recanvass means Kentucky’s 120 counties will check their voting machines and absentee ballots to ensure they were counted correctly, but they will not examine individual ballots. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said the recanvass will be conducted on Nov. 14.

The Lexington Herald-Leader explains what happens next:

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.”

As noted, it’s highly unlikely that a recanvass will result in the kind of change in the vote totals that could lead to a change in the outcome of the election. The most recent example of that came just three years ago in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. After the votes were counted on Primary Night, a mere 1,924 votes separated the two candidates, far fewer than the gap between Bevin and Beshear. This led the Sanders campaign to request a recanvass. After that recanvass was conducted, the gap between Clinton and Sanders had not changed by a single vote. We can expect that the outcome of a Bevin-Beshear recanvass will be roughly the same.

The same is likely to be true of a recount should Bevin request one. If he were to do so, he must file a petition in the Circuit (trial) Court in the state capital in Frankfort by next Tuesday, before the recanvass has taken place. Bevin would be responsible for the costs of such a recount since Kentucky law has no provision for an automatic recount. The recount would be conducted by the Judge assigned to the case and, while appealable, would be considered final once completed.

Historically speaking, though, the odds of a recount changing the outcome when the gap between the two candidates is more than 5,000 votes is somewhere between slim and none. Typically, a recount will pick up the missing or incorrectly counted ballots for one candidate or the other that will change the vote totals for the candidates, but it is rare that such a process ends up finding as many votes as Bevin would need to find —roughly 5,150 votes — to change the outcome of the election.

Beyond these options, Bevin could try more radical ways to challenge the election through either a formal election contest or petitioning the state legislature to investigate the election and, if necessary, pick the next Governor. Both of these are radical steps, though, and apparently unprecedented in Kentucky history. Additionally, in order to move forward with such a challenge, Bevin is going to have to do more than make vague and unsubstantiated claims about voting irregularities. Unless he can come up with such evidence he needs to concede this race and let Governor-Elect Beshear proceed forward with the transition so he can take power in December as mandated by law.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2019, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Teve says:

    I haven’t checked this but I read yesterday that in the history of Kentucky voting, a recanvass has never changed an election.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    I should start off by saying that in a close election Bevin’s SHOULD ask for a recanvassing. 5000 votes is a lot of votes but there could be a transcription error in that size, however unlikely.

    As for:

    petitioning the state legislature to investigate the election and, if necessary, pick the next Governor

    The fact that Republican legislators are actively floating this trial balloon says more about the low moral character of KY Republicans than anything written on a bathroom wall ever could…

  3. Nightcrawler says:


    I think that if this were in Florida, there would be an automatic recount. They’re triggered at a certain threshold, though I cannot recall what it is. Last year’s Gillum v. DeSantis race triggered one, but of course, it didn’t change anything.

    You’re right in that the issue isn’t the fact that a recanvass is happening but the sore loser mentality of the GOP.

  4. CSK says:

    Bevin, with an approval rating of 32%, really ought to face the fact that most of his constituents loathe him.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    If you can’t win…cheat them out of it!!!

  6. Anonne says:
  7. Kathy says:

    Think of it as calendar reform. There are some small issued with the current calendar, but it’s accurate enough for all purposes (ie the seasons don’t drift). Therefore reforming it is more trouble than it’s wroth.

    Vote counting is accurate enough, too. Maybe a recount will find small errors like miscounted ballots (remember the hanging chads?), but not enough to change the outcome. It’s worth doing on occasion with a very close result, but odds are like 99% it’s superfluous.

  8. Fortunato says:

    Why would Kentucky’s Democrats give a flying f..& what wholly corrupt Matt Bevin or the corrupt Kentucky GOP want?
    Why would Democrats anywhere in the nation any longer give a flying f..& about political norms, standards and precedent?
    The Republican party abandoned any and all adherence to such antiquated notions in what.. 1994? (Or was it 1964 with Goldwater and the Birchers?)
    Someone tell that cretin Matt Bevin to go f..& himself. I’m sure Fox, ALEC or the Koch Klan have some cushy gig lined up for his new found retirement. Maybe clubbing baby seals, drowning puppies, dipping newborn goslings in toxic tar sands, Or, maybe simply standing by and mocking the sick and dying as they writhe in pain, praying for the solace of a quick death since they no longer have access to pain relieving medicine or affordable health services.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Expect KY Republicans to move for a law mandating recounts in close elections…

    …and seek to repeal it the next time the winner in a close contest is GOP.

    ETA: WA! It’s true; you can thumbs up your own comment. I’ve never tried before but did it just now at the start of the edit period.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Let’s not pass by the irony that, if there are in fact systematic irregularities, they happened under his purview at the Governor of KY. And that, until Tuesday, he didn’t care enough about them to try to stop them.

  11. PJ says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    ETA: WA! It’s true; you can thumbs up your own comment. I’ve never tried before but did it just now at the start of the edit period.

    Only cheating Republicans thumbs up their own comments.

  12. Given the margin, a recount is unlikely to change this outcome.

    But, I say let them pursue whatever is allowable under the law and everyone should be patient. We put too much stock is election-night counts and the whole concede ritual. There’s time to get it right.

  13. The Q says:

    While I share everyone’s disdain and hatred of all things GOP, I don’t think we would object had Beshear lost by 5,000 votes and contested
    the results and possible “shady GOP voter suppression” .