Mistake drops Kobach lead to fewer than 100

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary has shrunk to only 91 votes after election officials discovered a mistake in the listing for one county’s results in the state’s tally of votes.

The lead is minuscule when compared with the 311,000 votes cast. 

Meanwhile, Colyer’s campaign has set up a “voting integrity” telephone hotline, it was announced Thursday. Spokesman Kendall Marr said it had received “countless” reports of voters experiencing issues at the polls.

Kobach is the state’s chief elections officers and told reporters Wednesday that he knew of no reports of irregularities outside of a long delay in the reporting of results from Johnson County because of issues with its new machines.

Colyer’s campaign announced the new hotline as election officials confirmed that a mistake shorted Colyer’s vote total for another county in the state’s results by 100 votes.

The final, unofficial results posted on the secretary of state’s website show Kobach winning Thomas County in northwest Kansas, with 466 votes to Colyer’s 422. But the tally posted by the Thomas County clerk’s office shows Colyer with 522 votes, or 100 votes more for him, a number the clerk confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press.

Bryan Caskey, state elections director, said county officials pointed out the discrepancy Thursday following a routine request for a post-election check of the numbers to counties by the secretary of state’s office.

County election officials have yet to finish counting late-arriving mail-in ballots or provisional ballots provided to voters at the polls when their eligibility wasn’t clear.

“This is a routine part of the process,” Caskey said. “This is why we emphasize that election-night results are unofficial.”

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms said it’s possible that her handwriting on the tally sheet faxed to the secretary of state’s office was bad enough in the rush of primary-night business that the number for Colyer wasn’t clear.

“They just misread it,” she told the AP.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Thursday issued a statement reminding local officials that vote canvassing must be a transparent process by state law.

 “With only a handful of votes separating the two leading Republican candidates for governor after the initial tally, as well as other close races in parts of our state, Kansans have a heightened focus on the integrity and accuracy of the process of finalizing the vote counts from Tuesday’s primary election,” he said.

Each local vote canvassing board may meet as soon as Monday, although state law gives local officials limited discretion to delay their meeting to a later date, Schmidt added.

“The canvassing process is designed to be transparent and may be observed by the public,” Schmidt stated. “Any person may request advance notice of when and where a board of canvassers will meet, and persons wishing to do so should contact the county election officer in the county for which they desire notice.” 

Kobach is perhaps President Donald Trump’s closest political ally in the state, and he’s a vocal advocate of tough policies on immigration and strict voter identification laws who served as vice chairman of Trump’s now disbanded commission on election fraud. The president tweeted his endorsement of Kobach on Monday, less than 24 hours before the polls opened.

CourierTraveler Publisher David A. Seaton contributed to this report.

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