Editorial cartoon

It’s not surprising that most of us had never heard of the election contest possibility in the state of Kentucky. History books are the only witness to the last time it was used, when William Goebel was placed in office via the process in 1899. In other words, no one who witnessed that incident is now living, attesting to how rare an election contest actually is.

No one has yet called for a contest, but Republican Senate President Robert Stivers mentioned a contest as a possibility Tuesday night, even before anyone had really declared Andy Beshear as the winner over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin.

Beshear’s margin of victory — 5,000 — is admittedly quite slim, considering the number of votes cast. A recanvass is definitely a worthwhile effort. That will take place this coming Thursday but will likely not result in any changes. 

Bevin is right to request the recanvass. However, we would question any action beyond that, barring some seriously compelling evidence showing that some kind of fraud or irregularities led to the vote totals being skewed.

This cannot be just generalized charges of irregularities, however. It would have to be specific examples that really cast doubt on not just the voting in one precinct or even one county, but would have to be evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities to convince us that a contest is warranted.

The Constitution of the State of Kentucky sets forth that, at the base level, the election of the governor and lieutenant governor shall be done by the “qualified voters of the state.” The power to decide who will serve as the executive of the state for a specified term is placed, in other words, in the hands of the people.

Perhaps that’s not always been for the best, as a fickle electorate sometimes has made decisions that didn’t just hinder, but sometimes outright harmed the commonwealth.

Regardless of that, and perhaps most importantly, the idea of a vote being a person’s voice over their government is a cornerstone of not just Kentucky, but the entire nation.

If the will of the people, right or wrong, can be overturned on a whim by a group of individuals based on partisanship or loose evidence of “irregularities,” then we’re in a very dangerous place.

Our state obviously survived the last time a contest was held, but not without such division and pain that it led to the only assassination of a governor in our state’s history (Goebel was sworn in on his deathbed).

In this day and age, filled with partisan division and a public discourse which is extremely fraught, an election contest could be much more costly than just a four-year term.

We would encourage Bevin to avoid that tactic if at all possible, barring evidence of serious election issues. Our state’s future is far too important to waste on an overreach of government.

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