Politics & Government

Robocall from Bevin supporter seeking ‘suspicious activity’ at polls sparks concern

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes raised concerns Friday about an automated call sent by a longtime supporter of Gov. Matt Bevin that asks people to report suspicious activity at polling locations to the State Board of Elections.

Grimes posted audio of the clip, which was first reported by the Courier Journal, on Twitter Friday. In it, Frank Simon, a conservative activist who heads the American Family Association of Kentucky, asks people to report any suspected voter fraud they saw in Tuesday’s election, in which Gov.-elect Andy Beshear beat Bevin by 0.38 percentage points.

“If you or anyone you know has information regarding suspicious activity at polling locations, please report suspected voter fraud to the State Department of Elections,” Simon says. He then asks people to call before Wednesday Nov. 13, the day before county boards of election will recanvass the vote totals in the governor’s election.

Grimes’ spokeswoman Lillie Ruschell said the call was received statewide but that it did not originate with the Office of the Secretary of State or the State Board of Elections.

The call comes after Bevin claimed there were several “irregularities” in the governor’s race, including “thousands” of illegally counted absentee ballots. Bevin has provided no evidence to back up his claim, instead saying his campaign was collecting affidavits.

Zack Kendall, one of Simon’s employees, confirmed that Simon sent the call but was unsure if Simon or the American Family Association of Kentucky paid for it.

“I think we’re just trying to make sure everything is going the right way,” Kendall said when asked why Simon put out the call. “Maybe it will reveal more, we don’t know.”

Several Republican lawmakers have expressed skepticism that there is enough evidence to switch the election, which Bevin lost by 5,189 votes according to the State Board of Elections’ unofficial results.

Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, would not say whether more calls alleging voter fraud came in following Simon’s robocall.

“The State Board of Elections takes all claims of voting improprieties seriously and communicates all complaints to our investigative parties,” Dearing said. “The State Board of Elections will continue to work with and support county boards of election and county clerks during the recanvass process.”

The Office of the Attorney General, which is in charge of investigating complaints of election fraud, reported receiving 133 calls at close of business Wednesday.

Simon has long been a conservative activist in Louisville and became notable for his opposition of Louisville’s 1999 Fairness Ordinance. Simon has donated $1,900 to Bevin during his two campaigns for statewide office.

County boards of election will meet to hold a recanvass — checking the vote totals of every voting machine in every precinct and re-tallying absentee ballots — on Nov. 14. The State Board of Elections is set to certify the results of the election on November 21. Bevin will have 30 days from that date to formally contest the results of the election, which would be then sent to the General Assembly.

Daniel Desrochers has been the political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader since 2016. He previously worked for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.
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