What Kentucky recanvass means for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is calling for a recanvass in the Kentucky primary. Why now?

Mike Blake/Reuters
Democratic US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign event in Anaheim, Calif., on May 24, 2016. Candidate Sanders is calling for a recount in Kentucky.

Bernie Sanders is calling for a recanvass in Kentucky.

In the Democratic Kentucky primary less than 1 percent of the vote separates Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton leads with 46.8 percent, followed by Sanders's 46.3 percent, resulting in a delegate split of 28 and 27, respectively, if the vote tallies do not change with a recanvass.

On Tuesday, the Sanders presidential campaign announced it requested a recanvass in the Kentucky primary, a step short of calling for a recount, which the Sanders campaign would have to pay for if approved.

Kentucky officials will meet Thursday morning to begin the recanvass.

What does a recanvass include?

"The recanvass essentially mimics the counting process from election night," writes Josh Douglas, professor at the University of Kentucky Election Society.

The process is designed to make sure the voting totals are accurate.

Basically, the existing totals from electronic voting machines on the Kentucky primary night and absentee ballots will be zeroed and added up again. This process means that counties will add up their voting totals in the same way they did on the election night counties with electronic voting machines will reenter the memory cartridges to add the totals up again, counties with printed totals will compare them to a county-wide total, and absentee ballots will be retallied, Professor Douglas explained.

The final number will become the new official vote total. The process itself should only take each county a couple of hours, with results ready by Thursday afternoon.

"Historically, vote totals have not changed by much during Kentucky recanvasses," Douglas writes. "This is because both the election night count and the recanvass are the same computer-run process, just done over again. Unless there is a major computer glitch, therefore, the vote totals are likely to be about the same."

At stake in the recanvass is the last remaining Kentucky delegate. Both candidates have currently gained 27 delegates and the last remaining delegate from the sixth congressional district will be awarded to whoever leads in votes. Right now, prior to the recanvass, that delegate will be awarded to Hillary Clinton.

If the recanvass shows Bernie Sanders gained more votes than Hillary Clinton in the sixth congressional district, Senator Sanders would gain the delegate.

Earlier in the primary season, Sanders could have pressed for a vote review in Iowa and Missouri, but did not, according to the Associated Press.

So why call for clarification in a primary so late in the season?

A Clinton aide told NBC news that Sanders could be using the event as a rallying point for supporters to increase donations:

"He's got a cash flow issue," the aide said. "I'm sure he'll use this to fundraise."

But the Sanders campaign rejected that notion on Tuesday, instead saying the tallies were so close it would be good to verify.

"We aren't looking anywhere in particular – we are simply making sure everything was counted and it was all added up correctly," a Sanders adviser told CNN, noting "how a couple transposed numbers can change the count."

"He's in this until every last vote is counted and he's fighting for every last delegate," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said Tuesday.

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