LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
You might have thought the governor's race in Kentucky ended Tuesday when Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear came out about 5,000 votes ahead of incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin. But no, it's still going on. Bevin wants a recanvassing of the vote and has also made accusations of fraud. Here he is in front of the governor's mansion last week.
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MATT BEVIN: We know there have been thousands of absentee ballots that were illegally counted. That's - that is known. And this, again, is something that's being looked into.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that true? NPR's Miles Parks is here with us to talk us through everything.
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start first with the recanvassing. What does that even mean?
PARKS: So it's not a recount, exactly. It's more of, like, a clerical process where they're going to be basically printing out the receipts from the voting machines, making sure something wasn't transcribed incorrectly or added wrong. Experts say this very, very rarely has an effect on the bottom line, especially when the vote margin is as big as 5,000 votes, as it is in this case. Either way, it's scheduled to take place on Thursday.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what about this absentee ballot "fraud," quote-unquote, that Bevin says he knows about? There was ballot fraud in an election for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District last year, and that election was indeed overturned. What does Bevin say happened in Kentucky?
PARKS: So it's kind of extraordinary how little we actually know about this supposed absentee ballot fraud that Bevin says he knows so much about. In North Carolina, it was a really different scenario. Basically, right after we started hearing whispers, a bunch of academics looked into the numbers, and it was very clear that something fishy was going on.
In this instance, we honestly have no idea what Bevin is talking about. A hundred twenty counties in Kentucky - not one election official has come forward saying they've seen anything. The secretary of state has not said she's seen anything. And Bevin wouldn't even take questions from reporters at the press conference where he said this statement.
I talked to election law expert Josh Douglas from the University of Kentucky, and here's what he said.
JOSH DOUGLAS: Governor Bevin really needs to put up or shut up. Give us the evidence, or stop making these claims of voter fraud that have no evidence behind them because I think it's a danger to the legitimacy of a democratic institution.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if recanvassing doesn't change the result, what could Bevin's next step here be?
PARKS: So I think the next step has experts like Douglas really worried. The option is open for Bevin to do something called contesting the election, which would basically put the results in the legislature's hand.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: A Republican legislature.
PARKS: A supermajority Republican legislature in Kentucky, which seemingly - the winner of this election is a Democrat. If you affect that from a Republican legislature, that could be a problem.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And I want to zoom out a bit here because President Trump - right? - has also made a lot of claims about voter fraud without any evidence to support them. Is this now making its way down-ballot, and will it just become part of every campaign from now on?
PARKS: I think that's the big question. We know that people in America are less confident in elections now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. So is that going to affect politicians' rhetoric? I think at this point, it seems like no. This is something that voters get really angry about, and politicians can capitalize on that anger.
I think what's worrisome is, in other democracies where we've seen that confidence continue to decline, that has taken some really worrisome steps in those situations, including with violence. If you believe - if you truly believe that your government is illegitimate, that could be a problem.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Miles Parks. Thank you so much.
PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.