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Kentucky governor’s race, if extremely close, could be headed for a recount

Ryland Barton

If the latest polls are accurate, Kentuckians may not know Tuesday night who will serve as their next governor. The race between incumbent Andy Beshear and his Republican challenger Daniel Cameron is considered a dead heat.

In 2021, state lawmakers passed a measure requiring an automatic recount in state races and some federal contests if a candidate wins by a margin of a half percentage point or less.

In a tongue and cheek post on social media, Secretary of State Michael Adams said, “We are prepared. However: please God no.” He echoed similar sentiment in an interview with WKU Public Radio.

“This is new territory. It’s never happened in Kentucky before," stated Adams. "I think it’s a good law. It makes things more difficult for us, but it’s for a good reason.”

In 2018, about half a dozen elections for state House were decided by 35 votes or fewer.

Gov. Beshear unseated Matt Bevin in 2019 by about 5,000 votes. If the current state law had been in place then, an automatic recount would have happened.

A recanvass took place following that election, but the margin of victory didn’t change. Adams said the recount process is more complex than a recanvass.

“This is literally opening up all the ballot scanners and running all the ballots through again and seeing of the count is correct," explained Adams. "We have no reason to believe it wouldn’t be, but the law requires us to do this and we’ll certainly do it if necessary.”

The state Board of Elections is meeting today to adopt a uniform set of standards for each county to follow in conducting a recount by machine. Adams says a hand recount wouldn’t allow the process to be completed within two weeks as required by law.

It would start on Nov. 14, one week after the election.

Adams estimates an automatic recount would cost the state between $1 and $2 million.

If a candidate was to lose by more than half of a point, they could petition Franklin Circuit Court for a recount, but the campaign would bear the cost.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.