Across Kentucky, different county clerk offices will be rechecking election results this Friday, including two hotly contested judicial races in Jefferson County that could have ramifications on the benches racial makeup.
On Election Night, three of the four African-American judges in Jefferson County retained their seats and two of those races were decided by razor-thin margins. Initial results showed Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards beating Louisville attorney John VanderToll by about 300 votes and District Judge Erica Lee Williams besting former prosecutor A. Christine Ward with a 200 vote margin.
Since then, both incumbents have increased their margins of victory. The unofficial results posted by the secretary of state’s office show Edwards winning by 670 and Williams by 601. Still, VanderToll and Ward have asked the county clerk to re-examine the vote totals beginning tomorrow morning.
“I had so much response from my supporters, and it is an opportunity available that I didn’t want to let go by and think later I should have done this,” says Ward. “I really don’t expect it to change anything, but I want to be absolutely sure there was no human error and make that request. When it’s that close you want to make sure.”
The recanvass is important in part because of the racial implications of this year’s judicial campaigns. For a brief in 2009, Jefferson County had no African-Americans among its 40 judges in circuit, district or family court.
Last summer, Gov. Steve Beshear heeded the call from civil rights advocates who were concerned about the lack of racial diversity and filled four vacancies with black judges, appointing Olu Stevens and Brian Edwards to the circuit court bench, along with Sadiqa Reynolds and Erica Lee Williams to district court.
All four appointees faced white opponents in the general eleciton, with Stevens easily winning re-election and Reynolds losing to attorney Gina Kay Calvert.
In the race for the 30th district judge seat, Ward resigned from her job as a prosecutor in the county attorney’s office after a new rule prohibited employees from running for office. After quitting her job and running a year long race, Ward says she had to double check the results, but Williams remains confident that she has retained the seat.
“There aren’t 601 errors,” says Williams, adding that Ward conceded via e-mail the day after the election. “I’m confident the votes will be the same. And I’m confident that I will remain in the seat I was appointed to by the governor. It didn’t surprise me that it was challenged though. ”
Once the county clerk’s office have re- examine the vote totals they will be tallied by the secretary of state’s office and certified by the state board of elections.
The recanvass results for the two judicial races are in (h/t The ‘Ville Voice):
Circuit Judge – 30th Circuit, Division 11
- Vandertoll Certified: 97,071
- Vandertoll Recanvass: 97,071
- Edwards Certified: 97,739
- Edwards Recanvass: 97,741
30th District, Division 17
- Williams Certified: 92,058
- Williams Recanvass: 92,058
- Ward Certified: 91,457
- Ward Recanvass: 91,457