Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has requested a state-run recanvass of last week’s Kentucky Democratic primary, hoping to earn at least one more delegate out of one of the year’s closest races. The decision, first reported by the Associated Press, came just hours before the deadline to request a new look at the Kentucky vote. On election night, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton led Sanders by 1,924 votes out of 454,573 cast. That prompted her campaign to declare victory, and for Kentucky’s election chief Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Clinton supporter, to tell news outlets that Clinton was the “apparent winner” of an upset. But Sanders never quite conceded the election. At rallies since the May 17 vote, he has referred to Kentucky as a delegate tie — it was, awarding 27 delegates to each candidate — and talked about dramatically cutting Clinton’s margin from the 2008 Democratic primary. On election night, after CNN reported that Sanders would not request a recount or recanvass, his spokesman Michael Briggs told The Washington Post that the decision was still to be made.
An aide to Clinton’s campaign noted that the Sanders campaign has been “all over the map” on issue of a recanvass or recount, and questioned whether the recanvass would change the results of the primary. “I’m not sure what the net impact will be going forward,” the aide said. “At the end of the day, we are still on track” to win the nomination.
For Clinton, the Kentucky vote was less about delegate math than a campaign narrative. A defeat there would have given Clinton just one win, in tiny Guam, for the whole month of May. Clinton’s campaign, which had previously suggested that it would pivot to the general election, ended up spending money on Kentucky campaign ads as the candidate barnstormed the state — one that is not expected to be competitive in November.
A recanvass is unlikely to change that narrative, and only somewhat more likely to change the math. Sanders opted not to request a full recount, which his campaign would have had to pay for. The recanvass would simply lead to a review of voting machine tallies and absentee ballots, to determine whether human error switched any of the reports to the secretary of state. At stake: One delegate from the sixth congressional district, which covers the state capitol in Frankfort and the state’s second largest city, Lexington, and where the initial count found a Clinton lead of just a few hundred votes.