In a tight race for Fayette Family Court judge, losing candidate petitions for recount

Ryan C. Hermens/Photo provided by candidate/rhermens@herald-leader.com

A candidate for Fayette County Family Court has asked a judge to order a recount in the tight race that saw Tiffany Yahr win the seat by 127 votes.

Carl Devine, who was appointed to the position earlier this year after Judge Kathy Stein retired, has asked Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Travis to order a recount.

In court documents, Devine argues that state law allows for a recount in other races where there is less than .5% difference between the winning and losing candidates. For example, there was an automatic recount in the 88th House District race where Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson, D-Lexington, defeated Republican challenger Jim Coleman by 35 votes. That recount is scheduled for Dec. 5-6, according to Devine’s lawsuit.

State law on recounts is silent on judicial races, Devine noted in his petition before the court.

Devine is also asking that he not post a bond or have to pay for the recount. Normally, if a candidate requests a recount and the margin is less than .5%, the candidate pays for the recount.

Some of the precincts in the 88th House District race are the same as in the family court race, Devine alleges in court documents. Therefore, he should not have to post bond for a recount that is already occurring in many of the precincts in question.

Devine also alleges there is a difference in the number of absentee ballots reported by the Kentucky State Board of Elections and the Fayette County Board of Elections. Devine alleges that difference is 85 votes.

A hearing and a motion for Devine to post a bond is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Devine said he felt that due to the 127-vote difference, he felt compelled to ask for a recount.

“I have been inundated with requests to pursue a recount. I feel a sense of obligation to the many people who are invested in this matter to follow the statutory process that is available in ensuring that the reported result of the election is the accurate result,” Devine said.

“I believe it is vital that we are able to confirm that every vote has been counted,” Devine said. “Additionally, the Herald-Leader reported that there were delays, glitches and technical issues during the voting process in Fayette County. The current result is too close and this position is too important to not utilize the recount process that is authorized by Kentucky law.“

Anna Whites, who is representing Yahr, said Yahr believes the vote total will stand.

“She is proud of the voters who turned out to take part in this important election and looks forward to taking the bench in January,” Whites said. “She has confidence in the skill of the staff at the county clerk’s office and the pollworkers who volunteer their time to ensure the integrity of the process.”

It’s rare for a recount to show substantial errors in the counting process, Whites said. The vote totals, if changed at all, typically change by one or two votes.

According to official results, Yahr received 36,069 votes.

Devine received 35,942 votes.

Yahr is a lawyer with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and touted her experience during the campaign with cases involving parental rights, neglect and abuse. Yahr has also been a foster parent and adopted a child from foster care.

Family court judges serve eight year terms and deal with divorces, child support issues, paternity, child abuse and neglect cases, among other legal issues.

Devine practiced law for 25 years prior to being appointed to the position by Gov. Andy Beshear in March. Devine said in less than six months on the job, he had already made several key changes including creating a separate docket for parents or adults who did not have lawyers.

Devine, who said he has been concerned about the shortage of social workers, also made changes so social workers wouldn’t have to spend as much time in court and streamlined court paperwork so it would not be over burdensome, he said during the campaign.