County Clerks offices around Kentucky will be busy Thursday morning as they re-tally the votes in not just one, but two Republican primary races. (In addition to recanvassing the 83-vote margin between gubernatorial hopefuls Matt Bevin and James Comer, Republican Richard Heath has asked for a recanvass of his 1,427 vote loss to Ryan Quarles for state agriculture commissioner.) But what will the County Clerks offices actually be doing on Thursday at 9:00 am when they recanvass these races? It is fairly simple, and it depends on the kind of vote counting system each county uses. The recanvass essentially mimics the counting process from election night.
Counties tally the results from electronic voting machines in one of two ways. First, some counties have a “central tabulation system.” In this method, each machine has a memory cartridge that contains the vote totals. On election night, those cartridges are fed into the county’s central tabulation system, which reports the county-wide vote totals for each candidate. During the recanvass, the tabulation system is set to zero, and the County Clerk re-enters the memory cartridges for the central tabulation system to count again.
Second, some counties use voting machines that produce a print-out of the vote totals. During the recanvass, County Clerks will compare the print-out from each machine with the county-wide count, basically re-calculating the county-wide totals from the precinct-level print-outs.
Finally, for any voters who used purely a paper ballot – such as some absentee voters – the Counties re-tally these ballots using the “same procedure” they used on election night to count the ballots. The recanvass will also include any late-arriving absentee ballots that a court has ordered the state to count, such as the six Republican absentee ballots from military voters who received their ballots late.