Kentucky lawmaker will challenge election he lost by 1 vote

November 30, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — After losing his re-election campaign by one vote, a Republican lawmaker in Kentucky has asked the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives for a recount to make sure the result is “100 percent accurate.”

Kentucky state Rep. DJ Johnson lost to Democrat Jim Glenn on Election Day by one vote in House District 13. County officials reviewed the totals one week later and made no changes. The state Board of Elections certified the results last week.

State law does not require automatic recounts in such close races. But it does allow Johnson to contest the election to the House of Representatives in what could be a highly political process. The House would appoint a board of between five and nine members to hear Johnson’s case. The board can take depositions and issue a report, but the House would have to vote to accept it. State law requires the “unsuccessful party” to pay for the process.

Johnson’s race was one of several close contests across the country in an election where polls showed voters were deeply divided. It took recounts to decide high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate in Florida, and it took more than a week before the Georgia governor’s race was finalized. In Alaska , state election officials are investigating the origins of a “mystery ballot” that could decide a state House race that ended in a tie.

“The races seem to be closer, and this type of thing I think is going to happen more often than it has in the past just because of where the country is politically,” Johnson said. “With a one vote margin, I think it is our responsibility to make sure it is 100 percent accurate, or as close to 100 percent accurate as we can possibly get.”

Glenn had held the seat for 10 years before narrowly losing to Johnson in the 2016 election. Glenn said he is confident he will take office in January.

“If everything is fair, I should still hold the seat,” he said.

An attorney for Johnson filed his challenge with the House clerk Friday afternoon. In it, Johnson says six votes should be thrown out because the people who voted did not sign precinct voter rosters, as required by law. And he says the House “must conduct a hand recount” because the Daviess County Board of Elections incorrectly rejected 17 absentee ballots.

Johnson said he would prefer for the local board of elections to oversee the recount, but said state law requires he appeal to the House of Representatives. He said lawmakers should vote to allow recounts in state legislative races.

In Kentucky, Republicans won 61 out of 100 seats in the state House of Representatives to maintain their supermajority. But six of the House races were decided by 48 votes or less. Friday is the deadline to contest elections. As of late Friday afternoon, Johnson was the only candidate to contest an election.

The state legislature has presided over contested elections before, but it’s unclear if they have ever been asked to conduct a recount. In 2005, Republican Dana Seum Stephenson was elected to the state Senate, but a judge disqualified her for not living in Kentucky at least six years prior to the election as required by law. Stephenson appealed to the Republican-controlled state Senate, which voted to seat her anyway.

Stephenson was later forced to resign after the state Supreme Court later she could not serve because she did not meet the residency requirements.

Update hourly