The man in charge of tallying up votes in Fayette County says rumors of voting irregularities or changes to the voter rolls that could have affected the recent election are unfounded and leading to an erosion of trust in the integrity of the electoral process.
"It was probably, no literally, the smoothest election I've had since I was elected in 2009," says Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, Jr., a Democrat.
But with a close margin in the most watched race of the evening and Governor Matt Bevin openly hinting – so far without evidence – at serious inconsistencies in the voting, a variety of rumors are swirling on social media.
One suggests that Kentucky recently purchased new voting machines that led to widespread errors, but that rumor was apparently based on an outdated news article from more than 15 years ago, according to WFPL's Rick Howlett. Another alleges that a sizable number of voters were tacked on to the rolls in Fayette County just ahead of the election. Blevins said that story may refer to inactive voters who were still eligible to vote but had been removed from the rosters voters sign when they arrive at polling places.
"You may hear numbers thrown around like Fayette County had 20,000 people added to the rolls in September. That's not the case," Blevins explains. "The inactive voters, by court order, were placed back on the rosters. That was about 16,000 voters... and it had zero change or effect on those voters or on the election."
The "inactive" designation is a precursor step taken when voters have not cast ballots in the last several elections. It triggers formal letters to the voters, asking whether they still intend to vote and giving them time to re-register. The state Democratic Party sued, alleging the state Board of Elections was not properly administering that process, and a court ordered the inactive voters back on the rosters. They were never removed from the rolls.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time they will have moved and would have had to switch precincts anyway," the clerk says.
Bevin, who trails Democrat Andy Beshear by more than 5,000 votes, has requested a recanvass – set for this Thursday.
"What we know is that there really are a number of significant irregularities," Bevin said Wednesday at the governor's mansion, "the specifics of which we're in the process of getting affidavits [about] — and other information that will help us to get a better understanding of what did or did not happen."
A group called Citizens for Election Integrity is raising concerns online, posting to Facebook that, "The official numbers in the Kentucky elections have some serious discrepancies" and pointing to what they say is a difference in vote counts in Anderson County and on the Secretary of State's website as an example. Meanwhile, conservative activist Frank Simon has produced robocalls seeking information about voting issues, urging those who receive the call to report "suspicious activity at polling locations to the State Department of Elections."
GOP leaders, including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, have appeared prepared for a Bevin loss, but the Louisville Courier-Journal reports the governor told a Young America's Foundation audience in California last weekend that, "I'll be darned if I want to lose a dirty election."
Regarding groups that are questioning the election tallies, Blevins says, "If they have real, substantive evidence, I wish they would share it. If not, they need to sit down and be quiet. We can't have groups like this eroding the public's confidence in the election."