After Kentucky's Senate president suggested the GOP-dominated legislature could ultimately determine the final outcome of the state's close gubernatorial election, Sen. Bernie Sanders Wednesday night accused Republican lawmakers of "threatening to effectively overturn the Kentucky election."
"In a democracy, we cannot allow politicians to just overrule election results," tweeted Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "The will of voters must be respected."
It is outrageous that Republicans are threatening to effectively overturn the Kentucky election. In a democracy, we cannot allow politicians to just overrule election results. The will of voters must be respected. https://t.co/pAicPF6VFt— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 6, 2019
Sanders speechwriter David Sirota said in the presidential campaign's Bern Notice newsletter Wednesday that "the fact that Kentucky's election was even close is a fantastic sign for the 2020 election and Bernie's campaign. It shows that GOP attacks on Bernie and his agenda are likely to backfire—even in traditionally Republican states."
In August, Trump-backed Republican Gov. Matt Bevin released a video condemning what he described as Sanders' "hateful class warfare and communist ideology."
"Kentucky voters... Which side are you on?" Bevin asked. "Do you support socialism or do you still believe that America is the greatest nation on Earth?"
"We hope that Matt Bevin honors the results of the recanvass, which will show he received fewer votes than Andy Beshear."
—Eric Hyers, campaign manager for Andy Beshear
Kentucky's Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear declared victory Tuesday night over Bevin, who officially requested a recanvass of votes Wednesday afternoon.
"We hope that Matt Bevin honors the results of the recanvass, which will show he received fewer votes than Andy Beshear," Eric Hyers, Beshear's campaign manager, said in a statement Wednesday.
According to the New York Times election tracker, Beshear is leading Bevin by more than 5,000 votes with all precincts reporting, and Kentucky's Democratic secretary of state has called the race for Beshear.
But Bevin has refused to concede the race and insisted—without a shred of evidence—that there were "irregularities" in the vote, a claim the Trump White House quickly parroted.
"It's too close to call. I think they're looking at the voter irregularities in some places," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Wednesday.
As the Times reported, "Bevin's recourse after a recanvassing would be contesting the election with the State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans."
"There, a group of randomly selected lawmakers (eight from the House, and three from the Senate) would form an elections board that would hear evidence and arguments before arriving at a recommendation that would be forwarded to the entire Legislature," the Times noted. "Lawmakers could end up deciding the contest."
Kentucky's Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, hinted at that possibility Tuesday night after Beshear declared victory.
"There's less than one-half of 1 percent, as I understand, separating the governor and the attorney general," Stivers told reporters. "We will follow the letter of the law and what various processes determine."
Stivers pointed to Section 90 of the Kentucky Constitution, which states: "Contested elections for Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly, according to such regulations as may be established by law."
The Republican lawmaker's comments sparked alarm, with observers warning the Kentucky GOP could be preparing to steal an election that didn't go their way.
"Pay attention," tweeted Vox's David Roberts. "They're going to try to steal the Kentucky election right out in the open, in front of everyone."