'Put an end to this madness': Kentucky elections board certifies winners in recount races

Secretary of State Michael Adams makes a joke about Gov. Andy Beshear at the Fancy Farm picnic Saturday. No Kentucky Democrat politicians showed to speak at this year's Fancy Farm event.  August 4, 2021
Secretary of State Michael Adams makes a joke about Gov. Andy Beshear at the Fancy Farm picnic Saturday. No Kentucky Democrat politicians showed to speak at this year's Fancy Farm event. August 4, 2021

The Kentucky State Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday to certify the victories of six Republicans in primaries where losing candidates filed recount petitions, despite several of those cases still pending before courts.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, the board's chairman, indicated before the vote that only two races with a recount petition were relatively close, with one petition already being dismissed and the other race having a recount last week that showed no change in the outcome.

"We've had enough harm to our taxpayers and to our democracy by these folks," Adams said before the vote to certify the general election ballot. "It's time to put an end to this madness and certify these people and let them get on with their fall campaigns."

The Board of Elections had certified candidates for the general election ballot June 6, with the exception of the winning candidates in the six races where a recount petition was filed. The six losing GOP candidates were all aligned with the small-government "liberty" wing of the party, with several indicating they did so to "check the tech" of voting machines.

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Adams said in the meeting Tuesday that it was time to move forward, with the outcome of the recounts no longer in doubt and important deadlines for the fall election approaching.

"I am specifically required by law, by the fourth Monday in August, to certify to our county clerks what the ballot is going to say so they can do their job of getting ready for the election," Adams said. "I've got a deadline by statute that I've got to follow."

Adams has been highly critical of several of the recount petitions, calling them "frivolous" and pushed by "conspiracy theorists" making unfounded allegations about election fraud.

In the Tuesday meeting, Adams also referred to the "harm that these frivolous lawsuits bring on our taxpayers," noting that LaRue County's public school system had to spend $5,000 for a recent tax levy election, as the county's voting machines remain under seal due to the recount petition of a state legislative candidate who lost in a blowout.

The only petition to result in an actual recount is that of Jessica Neal, a candidate in the primary for state Senate District 24 who finished with 36% of the vote — her 3,787 votes coming 307 short of winner Shelley "Funke" Frommeyer, who received 39%.

Neal posted a $57,368 bond last Monday to initiate a hand-recount of ballots from her race, which was conducted by tabulators from the district's four counties Aug. 10.

Related:If Kentucky 'liberty' candidates want recounts, judges say they will have to pay — a lot

While the court-appointed chairman of the recount has not yet released an official report on the recount, Campbell County Clerk Jim Leursen told The Courier Journal on Friday the hand-recount found the exact same results as the machine count on primary election night.

"And all the numbers came back perfect," Leursen said. "The machines were 100% accurate."

The only difference in the hand recount was the discovery of one "overvote" — a ballot that was not filled in properly by the voter and unable to be read by the machine — which could only have minimal effect on the vote totals.

However, the recount petition of Neal is still pending before Campbell Circuit Court, as she filed a motion to set the recount results aside due to the voting machines and ballots allegedly not being secured properly — as some machines had a yellow security seal near their tops and some did not. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Friday.

Leursen called Neal's allegations ridiculous, as the yellow seals at the top of the machine are not required and do not provide access to the ballots at the bottom of the voting machines, which all did have the proper security seals.

"They're just upset because having every machine report perfect doesn't fit their narrative," Leursen said.

Referring to the outcome of the recount in the Neal race, Adams said it showed the voting machines worked, despite the rampant conspiracy theories about election fraud.

"The reported goal and checking the tech has been done and the tech works," Adams said. "The tech was not shown to be deficient in any way."

Bridgette Ehly  — who lost 68% to 32% and by more than 2,000 votes to GOP House Speaker David Osborne — paid a $21,700 bond in Oldham County in June for her recount petition, only to have the judge dismiss the petition because it did not name and serve the proper respondents.

More coverage:Kentucky candidate posted a $22K bond for a recount, only to have the judge dismiss it

Ehly is appealing that dismissal, though the Board of Elections has so far been successful in its motions to dismiss three of the other recount petitions.

While none of the recount petitioners have made specific allegations of election fraud or misconduct, Ehly wrote that her purpose was to "check the tech" and "look under the hood" of voting machines to root out any potential fraud.

Adams' criticisms of the recount petitions have drawn fire not just from the recount petitioners, but the Boone County Republican Party, which recently passed a resolution censuring the GOP secretary of state and accusing him of "launching a public wave of gratuitous, ad hominem attacks" and making "false, defamatory and gratuitous allegations" against the recount petitioners.

Adams — who recently announced he was running for reelection — responded to the censure resolution by pointing out that judges have dismissed the recount petitions, touting his "conservative record" and saying he and judges "know more about election law than the authors of this resolution.”

Neal, who posted pleas for recount funds on her campaign Facebook page, has not responded to an email asking if she raised the $57,368 for the recount bond from supporters or paid for some of it from her own pocket.

Neal does not have to file another campaign report with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance until September, which would assumedly detail how the $57,368 was raised.

Winners of Kentucky's primary recount races

  • Stuart Ray, who won the GOP nomination for the 3rd District congressional seat. Rhonda Palazzo, who lost by just 58 votes, filed a recount petition that was dismissed.

  • House Speaker David Osborne, who won the GOP nomination for his state House district. Bridgette Ehly, who lost 68% to 32% and by more than 2,000 votes, filed a recount petition that was dismissed in Circuit Court, but has indicated she will file an appeal.

  • State Rep. Brandon Reed, who won the GOP nomination for his state House district. Courtney Gilbert, who also lost 68% to 32% and by more than 2,000 votes, filed a recount petition in Larue Circuit Court, which is still pending.

  • State Rep. Samara Heavrin, who won the GOP nomination for his state House district. Jacob Clark, who lost 57% to 43% and by 815 votes, filed a petition in Grayson Circuit that is still pending.

  • Congressman Hal Rogers, who won the GOP nomination for his 5th District congressional seat. Gerardo Serrano, who lost by 82% to 6% and by more than 68,000 votes, filed a recount petition in Jackson Circuit Court that was dismissed.

  • Shelley "Funke" Frommeyer, who won the GOP nomination for her state Senate district. Jessica Neal, who lost 39% to 36% and by 307 votes, filed for a recount in Campbell Circuit Court. The case is still pending, and the official recount results have not been released. But the Campbell County clerk said the recount did not change the results of the primary vote.

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky elections board certifies winners for ballot in recount races