In Kansas, three days after the state’s primaries, a bitter Republican race for governor is still too close to call — and newly found vote-counting errors are only making the race tighter.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a right-wing hardliner who’s come under scrutiny for ties to white supremacist groups and has President Donald Trump’s endorsement, sat an uncomfortable 191 votes ahead of incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer Wednesday.
Kobach, who was vice chair of Trump’s voting integrity commission, which disbanded in January, finally said he will recuse himself from the recount process as the secretary of state late on Thursday, calling the move symbolic.
On Thursday, state election officials reported that they discovered an error that shortchanged Colyer 70 votes. According to the Washington Post, a clerical error in the secretary of state’s office entered Thomas County’s votes for Colyer as 422 votes, where it should have been 522. In another county, results that should have given 257 votes for Kobach and 220 votes for Colyer, instead were filed as 110 for Kobach and 103 for Colyer.
Kansas doesn’t require an automatic recount in a close race; as Vox explained it’s up to a candidate, registered voter, or election officials to ask for one. The state would pay for a recount if the margin is less than .5 percent. Meanwhile, Colyer hasn’t conceded the race, waiting for provisional and absentee ballots to be counted, or called for a recount.
With fewer than 90 days until the midterm elections, both Republican candidates have said they would continue campaigning as though they won the primary. And they have good reason to.
Democrats see an opportunity in Kansas, especially after former Gov. Sam Brownback’s extremely unpopular conservative policies — including extreme tax cuts — left the state’s economy and school system in a lurch.
Colyer, who was the state’s lieutenant governor under Brownback, was appointed to fill the seat after Brownback became the Trump administration’s “ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.” Colyer is a conservative; Kobach, who is campaigning on more tax cuts and hardline anti-immigration policies, has been attacking Coyler by calling him a moderate.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will go up against state Sen. Laura Kelly, who won 51 percent of the vote in Tuesday night’s primaries. Kelly has run into some trouble herself over a controversial vote supporting a contentious but bipartisan voter ID law. The law mandated that voters provide proof of citizenship to register to vote; the bill was Kobach’s brainchild. It was struck down in the courts in June for being unconstitutional.
But regardless of who wins the Republican nomination, the confusion from the primary will bode well for Kelly.