The Republican Party of Kentucky is requesting all county clerk's offices across the state provide a large amount of data on the Nov. 5 election.
The request was sent to clerk's offices Wednesday, the day before all clerk's offices are scheduled to conduct a recanvass in the race between gubernatorial candidates Andy Beshear and Matt Bevin.
Beshear, the Democratic candidate, defeated Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes, a result that Bevin has disputed. Bevin claimed the election was plagued by "irregularities."
The letter was sent by Jake Cox, the state Republican Party's director of research and digital strategy. The three-page letter contains 30 line items of information the party is seeking.
Some of the items requested include "copies of all ballot images, or of similar documents in your possession," a list of spoiled ballots, lists of the number of absentee ballots requested and a breakdown of who absentee voters chose in the governor's race.
Cox's letter also requests copies of any "voter logs, voter books" or other devices with information "relating to identifying registered voters who cast ballots on Election Day," and data from databases used to tabulate votes in the counties.
The letter cites the state's open records law. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Michael Lonergan, communications director for the state Republican Party, said the request was "pretty routine."
The letter "pretty clearly outlines the request," Lonergan said.
When asked Wednesday if requesting the information before the recanvass takes place is premature, Lonergan said, "the recanvass is tomorrow, so the timeline fits pretty well."
Officials with the secretary of state's office, which oversees elections, and the state Democratic Party said they had not seen the letter as of Wednesday afternoon.
In a written statement sent later Wednesday, Lonergan said: “Since the recanvass was announced, we’ve submitted public records requests for information like absentee and provisional ballot records, poll worker training and staffing records and other routine election materials. Requests for such public records are routine in the event of a recanvass, and since this is a statewide election, we are submitting these requests to every county clerk’s office."
Lonergan said the party requested similar information during a recount in Owensboro's 13th House District earlier this year, when Democrat Jim Glenn defeated Republican DJ Johnson by a single vote.
Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter said the county did provide information on the 13th District race to the state House of Representatives on the order of a House committee that was overseeing the election contest.
The request is different from the request the clerk's office responded to during the 13th District recount, Porter said.
"We didn't do anything for the Republican Party. The legislature asked for it," he said.
Porter said he believed the information requested is all public record.
"The question is, how do we get it to them, and how soon?"
Not all of the information will be immediately available, Porter said. By law, ballots must be impounded for 30 days following an election, so copies of ballots cannot be made before then unless the county receives an order from a Circuit Court judge to make them available earlier.
"We have all the ballots, and they are under lock and key," he said.
The county would allow ballots to be copied in the clerk's office by RPK officials, Porter said. "We'll provide (access) and allow them to do it. ... We'll monitor them. We have to watch them: I don't want anyone to take a ballot" or change a ballot, he said.
The head of the Kentucky Association of County Clerks could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
In Daviess County, the recanvass is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Daviess County Courthouse. Other counties will also conduct recanvasses in the governor's race at 9 a.m.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse