Elections board delays certifying Kentucky primary results

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky election officials on Tuesday delayed certifying statewide primary election results after the state’s chief election official identified a series of discrepancies in vote counts.

The inconsistencies won’t change any outcomes of last month’s primary election. But it set off another round of feuding over how the state monitors elections.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told the State Board of Elections that her staff found more than 50 discrepancies spanning 20 of the state’s 120 counties.

Many discrepancies amounted to a handful of votes for certain candidates each time.

But in one instance, Grimes said, Republican Ryan Quarles could have been shortchanged several hundred votes in one county as he cruised to a primary victory in his reelection bid as state agriculture commissioner.

Grimes said the certification delay was due to a new state law that removed much of her authority over the State Board of Elections. Grimes has filed a lawsuit challenging the measure, claiming it’s an unconstitutional infringement of her executive authority.

“It is the reason why we are delaying the certification,” Grimes told reporters. “In my near eight years as chief election official, I’ve never had a certification go forward where we didn’t have an answer for every question and discrepancy for what was unofficially reported versus what we certified.”

Grimes said her staff found discrepancies that should have been detected by the elections board’s staff. Grimes has feuded with the board’s executive director.

The discrepancies included transcription and mathematical mistakes, she said.

Board chairman Josh Branscum didn’t blame the new law for the certification delay.

“I think there’s just some clarifications that need to be made, and the board’s going to do everything we can to make sure we move forward appropriately,” he told reporters.

The elections board set another meeting for Friday. It has until next Monday to certify the statewide primary election results.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Grimes’ comments blaming the certification delay on the new law are “beyond absurd.”

“When it comes to election-related issues, the buck stops with her,” Thayer said in a statement. “I urge the secretary of state to quit playing political games.”

Thayer led the push for the Republican-dominated legislature to pass the measure this year. It removes the secretary of state as chairman and a voting member of the elections board. It carried an emergency clause allowing it to take effect immediately after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it.

Grimes, one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, says the law was politically motivated. A judge recently denied her request to temporarily block the law, but his order said Grimes retains her title as chief elections officer in Kentucky.

Her lawsuit also claims the elections board was unlawfully reconstituted into an independent state agency.

Grimes is in her second term as secretary of state and cannot seek reelection this year because of term limits. She considered running for governor this year but decided against it. Grimes lost a high-profile U.S. Senate race against Republican Mitch McConnell in 2014.

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(This story was originally published on June 4, 2019)

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