A voting error has cut in half the lead Kris Kobach held over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary for Kansas governor.
Kobach, an anti-illegal immigration hard-liner who campaigned as a staunch ally of President Trump, originally had a 191-vote advantage over Colyer as of Wednesday. The latest adjustment means Kobach’s lead is reduced to 91 votes.
On Thursday, the state elections office said there had been an error in transmitting votes from Thomas County in northwestern Kansas, according to Colyer campaign spokesman Kendall Marr.
“It looks like someone may have flipped a key or something,” Marr told The Washington Post. “That error shortchanged Governor Colyer by 100 votes.”
Colyer refused to concede the race Wednesday, saying there were still thousands of provisional and mail-in ballots left to count. This newly discovered error only reinforced his resolve, Marr said.
“This is exactly why we have canvass. It’s exactly why we should be checking our math,” Marr said. “This is exactly why Governor Colyer will make sure every legitimate vote is counted in this election.”
Preliminary results Wednesday showed Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who previously served as vice chairman of Trump’s now-disbanded voting integrity commission, had 126,257 votes to Colyer’s 126,066, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
Kobach on Wednesday acknowledged that the results of the race could change as provisional ballots were counted but said he would begin campaigning immediately as if he were the winner.
“We have only three months [until the general election], and if we spend a week of that three months doing absolutely nothing, then we will have given our opponents a sizable lead in the footrace that we have,” Kobach said at a news conference Wednesday. “So it is imperative that we begin running . . . with the full knowledge that I may hand the baton off to Jeff.”
The winner of the Republican primary will face the projected Democratic nominee, state Sen. Laura Kelly, and independent candidate Greg Orman in November.
On Thursday, Colyer’s campaign said the governor, like Kobach,would also continue campaigning as if he would be representing the Republican Party in November.
“Well, we are going to continue running as if we are the nominee at this point,” Marr said. “There’s no reason not to continue to operate [so] until we find out otherwise.”
Kansas law does not call for an automatic recount in close races. Candidates may request a recount, and the cost is borne by the candidate or the counties, depending on the result.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Kobach acknowledged his dual role as partisan gubernatorial candidate and nonpartisan state elections official. He said if a recount were requested in the race, the votes would be tallied at the county level but that his office would act simply as a coordinating entity.
Kobach is not required by law to recuse himself from the recount process. Even so, some independent experts and Kobach critics have called on the secretary of state to recuse himself from the process entirely, arguing that his role as a candidate presents a conflict of interest. Kobach did not say Wednesday whether he planned to do so, maintaining that there are “multiple safeguards” in place to ensure the fairness of a potential recount.
Colyer’s campaign said it had not focused on whether it would ask Kobach to recuse himself from the process in the event of a recount.
“We’re certainly not at a recount right now,” Marr said. “We need to finish the original count.”
Secretary of State Kris Kobach spoke to the media during a news conference at the Topeka Capitol Plaza hotel in Topeka, Kan., on Wednesday. (Thad Allton /The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)