On Tuesday night, Democrats celebrated as Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Governor Matt Bevin. Though the results were quite close for an election with such a high turnout, the final numbers showed Beshear with an advantage of over 5,100 votes—an almost impossible amount to be reversed by a recount. But Republicans aren’t about to be thwarted by a little thing like the will of the voting public. Bevin has refused to concede the race, and Republicans in the state house are taking first steps to take control of the election, reverse the results, and return Bevin to the governor’s mansion no matter what the vote says.
As the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, the Republican president of the Kentucky Senate has already started looking into how they could contest the election and throw it to a vote in the GOP-dominated state House of Representatives. Under Kentucky state law, the elections are certified by a state board of elections. Once that happens, Bevins has 30 days in which he could ask for a re-canvas or a recount. However, he could also contest the election. In that case, it would be up to a vote of the House and Senate to decide the winner. And in both chambers, Republicans have a majority.
While candidates are allowed to contest elections, the last time this happened in Kentucky was in 1899. In that case, Democrat William Goebel, who ran on a working class, “friend to the common man,” anti-corporate platform had a contest that came down to a handful of votes against Republican “man of business” William Taylor. Taylor was first named governor, but after a near state-wide rebellion that required the legislature to meet in secret, Goebel was declared governor. Unfortunately, by that point a Republican had already shot Goebel. He was officially governor, on his death bed, for three days.
That’s the legacy that Kentucky Republicans are out to revive as they and Bevin scan the rules and look to throw the election into contention—quite possibly bypassing the idea of a recount so that it doesn’t inconveniently show them what they already know; that Beshear is the winner. So the plan being contemplated is not to do a recount, or even a re-canvass of voting machines. Bevin could just go straight to the state Congress, then stroll back to the mansion, smiling all the way.
Senate president Robert Stivers has already stated that this “legislature could decide the race” and Kentucky law states that contested elections “shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly, according to such regulations as may be established by law." Republicans are now reviewing the rules and regulations around those contests to see if there’s something that says they can’t simply seat the candidate of their choosing. And there may be nothing to stop them.
Stivers seems prepared to argue that Bevin is the real winner because 2% of the vote went to the Libertarian candidate. And if there had been no Libertarian candidate, “most of those votes … would have gone to Bevin.”
But there was a Libertarian candidate, and the state Libertarian Party made it clear how they felt about Bevin. “We split the vote, and we could not be more thrilled. If our friends in the major parties do not want this to happen again, they should think about supporting ranked choice voting. And supporting our issues.”
Or, as Republicans seem prepared to do, they could just steal the Libertarian votes, give them to Bevin, declare him the winner, and call it a day. And when they’re done, Trump will probably give them a tweet of congratulations.