Kansas governor calls on Kris Kobach to stop advising election officials in his own race

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) is calling on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to stop advising election officials as the two are locked in a tight battle to be the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee.

As of Wednesday, Kobach was up by 191 votes, but on Thursday, news broke that a counting error had shortchanged Colyer 100 votes. As of Thursday evening, Kobach leads by just 91 votes out of more than 311,000 cast. The county clerk blamed the secretary of state’s office for the discrepancy.

Wow: county clerk pointing a finger at Kobach, who is both candidate and election administrator, in a big vote-tabulation discrepancy > https://t.co/AqLdu1cmU0 pic.twitter.com/nvjTrng2J9

— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) August 9, 2018

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Kobach has not recused himself from the vote tabulation for his own race. As secretary of state, Kobach oversees voting in the state, but no law requires him to step aside and he says he sees no problem in staying in his role — even if a recount is requested.

“The recount thing is done on a county level, so the secretary of state does not actually participate directly in the recount,” Kobach said after initial results showed him winning by fewer than 200 votes. “The secretary of state’s office merely serves as a coordinating entity overseeing it all but not actually counting the votes.”

In a letter Thursday, however, Colyer argued that Kobach was advising county election officials, not serving as merely a coordinating entity.

“It has come to my attention that your office is giving advice to county election officials — as recently as a conference call yesterday — and you are making public statements on national television which are inconsistent with Kansas law and may serve to suppress the vote in the ongoing Kansas primary election process,” Colyer wrote in a letter addressed to Kobach.

Kansas Gov. Colyer wants Secretary of State Kobach to recuse himself from giving election advice to local election officials. Here’s the letter: pic.twitter.com/IAdDUYo3nM

— Daniel Strauss (@DanielStrauss4) August 9, 2018

Colyer goes on to request that Kobach recuse himself and writes that he has been informed that Kobach has been saying on national television that all mail-in ballots have been counted already. In private, however, Colyer says that Kobach has been advising county officials not to count mail-in ballots without postmarks or with illegible postmarks.

Additionally, Colyer encourages Kobach to count all provisional ballots submitted by unaffiliated voters and asked Kobach to respond by Friday morning.

Kobach, who was endorsed by President Trump, has made his name nationally pushing an anti-immigrant, anti-voter agenda. Kobach co-chaired Trump’s recently disbanded voter fraud commission, and refused to accept a recent report that the commission found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. On Tuesday night, Kobach told ThinkProgress’ Kira Lerner he believes voter fraud could “absolutely” be the reason he ekes out a primary victory.