Things That Make You Go Hmmmm…

Last year, I marked the tenth anniversary of the 2004 Presidential election, and noted the abundant evidence suggesting that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry had been the victim of electoral chicanery in Ohio. It’s a profound shame that concerns about the outcome of the 2004 presidential election were so abruptly dismissed once Kerry conceded; it’s as if no one seemed to care that Kerry may well have lost a rigged game.

A decade later, we’re seeing another odd instance of Democrats apparently shrugging their shoulders in the aftermath of another questionable election: last week’s Kentucky gubernatorial contest between far-right Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway. Didn’t it strike anyone as a little, well, strange that Bevin scored an upset victory when all indications were that he would get his rear end kicked by Conway going into the election? Why aren’t Democrats in Kentucky raising questions about whether this result is accurate?

As investigative journalist Brad Friedman observes, the outcome of the Kentucky gubernatorial race deserves more than a little scrutiny:

We see, again, the nightmare scenario I’ve warned about for so many years: a U.S. election where all of the pre-election polls suggest Candidate X is set to win, but Candidate Y ends up winning by a huge margin instead and nobody even bothers to verify that the computer tabulated results accurately reflect the intent of the voters.

That’s exactly what happened in Kentucky on Tuesday, where Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway was leading by a fair margin (about 3 to 5 points) in almost every pre-election poll in his race for Governor, but then ended up being announced as the loser to ‘Tea Party’ Republican candidate Matt Bevin by a landslide (almost 9 points) — according to the state’s 100% unverified computer tabulation systems.

As detailed on today’s program with my guest Karoli Kuns of Crooks And Liars, there are a number of reasons to question the reported results. Among them, as Kuns points out today at C&L, the Democrats running in the down ballot races — for Secretary of State, Attorney General (Conway’s current job) and even state Auditor — each reportedly received tens of thousands more votes than Conway did at the top of the ticket!

Bev Harris, of BlackBoxVoting.org, described the higher vote totals in the down ballot races as a “significant anomaly”. She tells me that, at least until more records are requested and examined, the KY-Gov’s race “has to be looked at as a questionable outcome, particularly because of the discrepancies in the down ballot races. More votes in those races and not at the top…that just doesn’t happen.”

Friedman also notes that Kentucky has a fairly recent history of, shall we say, electoral mischief:

There are many other reasons for supporters to question the reported results in the KY-Gov’s race, as I detail during the show. Of course, the reported results could also be completely accurate. But, without public, human examination of the hand-marked paper ballots (which, thankfully, now actually exist across most of the state!) and other related records, we have yet another unverified, 100% faith-based election to leave supporters wondering if they really won or lost.

We’ve seen this before, of course. Too many times. We’ve seen malfunctioning paper ballot op-scan systems report losers as “winners” until a hand-count corrects the record. We’ve seen how easy it is for hackers to game election equipment. We’ve seen election insiders, even as recently as last week, breaking in to computerized central tabulators. And we’ve even seen high-ranking election officials in Kentucky (including County Clerks, Circuit Court Judges and School Superintendents!) convicted for decades of insider election fraud, including the manipulation of electronic voting systems.

Like Friedman, I don’t gainsay the idea that the outcome of the Kentucky gubernatorial election could indeed be on the level. After all, in previous statewide elections, Kentucky voters have given the thumbs-up to an unapologetic global warming denier and a demented doctor who believes that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional, so it’s not as though the Bluegrass State is averse to wingnuttery. However, considering the anomalous and peculiar nature of this election result, and considering the implications for economically vulnerable Kentucky residents, shouldn’t Kentucky Democrats have requested a hand-counted verification of the outcome of the gubernatorial race? It’s odd to quote Ronald Reagan in this context, but what’s wrong with following the advice of the 40th President: “Trust but verify”? What’s wrong with making sure nothing funky happened on November 3?

It’s hard to understand why Kentucky Democrats aren’t pushing to have the outcome of this race verified via a hand-count of all the ballots. Heck, Kentucky Republicans should also push for a verification of this outcome, if for no other reason than to remove the asterisk next to Bevin’s name in the history books.

UPDATE: More from Crooks and Liars and the Young Turks.

SECOND UPDATE: More from Thom Hartmann, Change.org and NPR.

THIRD UPDATE: More from Hartmann.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.