Quick, transparent election resolution is critical
Published 6:23 pm Friday, November 8, 2019
By MICHAEL CALDWELL
The 2019 gubernatorial election is over, but the saga may just be beginning.
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In a race that was marked by extreme partisanship and vitriol by candidates and supporters alike, we shouldn’t be surprised that the conclusion won’t come easy.
The margin of victory for Democrat Attorney General Andy Beshear was less than a half a percent over incumbent GOP Matt Bevin.
Talk about slim victories. That breaks down to about a 5,100-vote difference in a race where more than 1.4 million people cast a ballot.
Republicans rolled their way to big wins in all the other constitutional offices, so this perfectly illustrates how deeply divided commonwealth voters were on Bevin.
Beshear quickly claimed victory Tuesday night, but Bevin has yet to concede. He has asked for an official recanvass, which requires county officials to verify the results from all voting machines and recount the absentee ballots.
This will take place next week. But it will also likely not be the end.
If Bevin comes up short in the recanvass, the governor has already laid the groundwork for questioning the results by touting unsubstantiated claims that thousands of absentee ballots were counted illegally and other voting irregularities. We have outlined our concerns with this approach separately on this page in our editorial.
A recanvass differs from a full-scale recount, which the Legislature would have to request if Bevin formally contested the election. To do that, Bevin would need proof of fraud.
So far we have not seen it.
Making matters worse, some lawmakers have already started floating the idea of using an obscure part of the Constitution last implemented in the 1890s to allow Kentucky’s Legislature to essentially decide the gubernatorial race, even if it means overturning the popular vote.
It isn’t hyperbole to say this would be a monumental mistake, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on, that would do great harm to our democratic system.
The secretary of state and the state board of elections need to work quickly to ensure the vote totals are correct — either as they stand now or whatever they become.
Then, without clear evidence of fraud, it is time for all to move forward. This means as individuals, as political parties and as one unified state.
If Beshear’s victory holds up, he must learn from the mistakes of his predecessor. Topping that list would be this lesson: How you communicate with your constituents is important. He also needs to avoid the same partisan bickering that he was a part of while serving as attorney general.
If Bevin was to win, he needs to return to the statehouse humbled and committed to showing citizens that he is working for all Kentuckians.
More than 42 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Although this may sound low, and it is still far below where it should be, this reflects the strongest turnout in a gubernatorial election in almost a quarter of a century. That is a positive step forward. The next one involves resolving this quickly.
Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Advocate-Messenger and Danville Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6400 or by email at email@example.com.