The days and weeks following an election are traditionally a time when bad campaign blood is forgotten, when winners and losers alike extol the value of democracy, when we put down the partisan pitchforks and our newly elected leaders promise to serve everyone, not just those who voted for them.
In the case of close elections, it can sometimes be appropriate to delay those necessary healing steps and take a closer look at the vote totals.
In exceedingly rare cases, it can be appropriate to challenge an election’s results, when there is hard evidence of crime, vote fraud or illegal manipulation of the results.
It is never acceptable to sow doubts about the democratic process for political or personal reasons.
Unfortunately, that seems to be what Gov. Matt Bevin is doing with his recent comments and actions following his loss to Andy Beshear in the Nov. 5 general election.
Bevin has alleged a lot of things without offering any kind of evidence. He has insinuated there could have been large-scale illegal vote-buying going on; and that poll workers prevented his supporters from having their votes counted, either intentionally or through incompetence. He also claimed it was “a little suspect” that Secretary of State Alison Grimes called the election for Beshear, a thinly veiled accusation that Democrats somehow rigged the entire election (an election, it’s worth noting, in which five of six Democrats seeking statewide office were resoundingly defeated).
Does Bevin have any evidence for his over-the-top conspiracy claims? No. He is supposedly investigating claims and digging up evidence. Now, there are robo-calls going out asking people to come up with reports of election problems to support Bevin’s case.
Let’s assume against the odds that something bad really did happen in the election. If Bevin wanted to handle suspicions of such egregious acts appropriately, he would investigate and collect the evidence first, then go public with accusations based on that evidence.
Instead, he’s shooting off his mouth and asking questions later. His comments serve no purpose except to undermine our democracy by generating mistrust of the system among his supporters. And to what end? To soothe his own ego after losing? Or in hopes Republicans in the state legislature would declare it a contested election and hand him his seat back?
The latter seems like an impossibility. Our feelings align quite well with Boyle County’s state Rep. Daniel Elliott (R-Danville), who issued a formal statement Wednesday that he would “not participate or support any effort to invalidate the election results.”
Elliott said a recanvass, which Bevin has requested, is all well and good, but he doesn’t expect it to change the results. And he said if that prediction comes true, “I believe the governor should concede and congratulate Mr. Beshear on his victory.”
Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) was also critical of how Bevin handled his loss.
“If there is evidence of fraud or illegalities, as was alluded to last night, Governor Bevin should state his claim immediately and let the evidence be reviewed,” Nemes wrote online. “But this is not an opportunity for a fishing expedition or a chance to overturn the election result.”
Elliott and Nemes are both setting a good example for how politicians ought to behave — with respect and appreciation for the democratic process, whether your team wins or not.
Bevin had four years of chances to follow such examples from inside and outside his own party and didn’t take them. Perhaps if he had, he wouldn’t have alienated so many people. He might even have four more years in Frankfort.
Instead, he spent four years making a lot of work a lot uglier than it needed to be. It’s not really a surprise, then, that he’s making the end of his term ugly, too.