Election contest bill advances to Senate


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)—A bill that would give the General Assembly future guidance in contested state legislative, statewide and congressional elections has cleared the Kentucky House.

House Bill 522, sponsored by House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, would require an automatic vote recount when a candidate for the General Assembly, Congress or statewide constitutional office—including the office of Governor—loses by 0.5 percent or less of the vote.

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The recount would be held no later than the second Tuesday following the election if the State Board of Elections determines, based on the certified vote, that a recount is needed. The cost of the recount would be paid by the state from the General Fund surplus account or state’s budget reserve trust fund, with any additional recount paid for by the petitioner.

“In essence, what House Bill 522 will do is it will trigger an automatic recount for any election, for General Assembly as well as statewide offices and, in some rare occasions, for congressional offices if the vote is decided by less than one half of one percent of the total vote,” Osborne told his House colleagues yesterday. “It also will provide for a process by which (in such circumstances) a candidate can request and can petition a court, as other races do, for that recount.”

An election could still be contested, said Osborne, “if there are other issues that are involved in the election contest such as residency, such as ballot access, eligibility—those things would still be subject to an election contest which, again, by the constitution would be handled by (the Kentucky House of Representatives).”

The bill was filed in response to a state House election contest that challenged the result of the 2018 general election for Kentucky’s 13th House District. Rep. Jim Glenn, D-Owensboro, narrowly won the election according to initial results, which were subsequently contested by his opponent, former State Rep. D.J. Johnson, R-Owensboro. A recount indicated the election ended in a tie.

Johnson withdrew the contest in early February, and Glenn—who was seated as the State Representative for the 13th District on the first day of the session—retained the seat.

“Hopefully this will give us guidance and give us some automatic response in case of very, very close elections,” Osborne said of HB 522.

Adkins was randomly selected, along with eight other House members, to serve on the House election contest board tasked with handling the contested 13th House election earlier this session. That experience, he told his colleagues, left him and other lawmakers looking for a “bipartisan way” to improve the statutory process for contested elections.

“We thought it was better to clarify and tighten up the statute to where it did give the exact direction, recourse, avenue that needed to be taken – to never put us, hopefully, in the position that we were in when we first came into session,” said Adkins.

HB 522 passed the House by a vote of 94-0 yesterday. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.