Kobach says he'll recuse himself as vote count discrepancies found in Kansas GOP primary

Kansas GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach said on Thursday he planned to recuse himself from his role overse...

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 10:38 AM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 10:38 AM

Kansas GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach said on Thursday he planned to recuse himself from his role overseeing the undecided gubernatorial primary race between himself and incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer.

The close GOP primary race between the two took a turn on Thursday, with discrepancies discovered between unofficial results from the county and the state levels and Colyer calling for Kobach to step aside from election oversight as outstanding votes are counted.

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Kobach told CNN he would recuse himself after the request, although he called his role largely symbolic in any case.

"There's really no point to it, but I said if my opponent wishes me to, I'd be happy to," Kobach said on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time."

"But it's purely symbolic. I don't think he understands the process."

Kobach, as secretary of state, is Kansas' chief elections official.

Kobach said he would formally recuse himself on Friday.

"Yeah, we'll be formally answering his request tomorrow, but I'll give you a heads up," Kobach told Cuomo. "Yes, we'll be, I'll be happy to recuse myself, but as I say it really doesn't make any difference."

The race between Kobach and Colyer for the GOP gubernatorial nomination remains too close to call with more than 311,000 votes tallied and more than 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots left to count -- meaning the race won't be settled for days.

"It's certainly possible that the result of the race could change," Kobach said at a news conference Thursday.

One discrepancy was with the results in Thomas County, where County Clerk Shelly Harms said Colyer got 522 votes -- not the 422 votes he was listed as having received on the Secretary of State's website.

Harms shared with CNN the document she faxed the Secretary of State's office on election night listing Colyer's total as 522. She said she hadn't had time to inform the Secretary of State's office that its unofficial result total was inaccurate.

Reports of discrepancies between the listed vote totals in the race from Wyandotte and Haskell counties also came in on Thursday. As of Thursday evening, the county sites showed slightly different results from the Secretary of State's corresponding results for each county. CNN reached out to both the Secretary of State's office and the counties to confirm that their websites' unofficial totals reflect a discrepancy and to see how it would be resolved. Those offices did not respond to CNN's request for comment

Asked about the updated total on Thursday evening, Kobach said "keystroke errors" in unofficial totals were an inevitable part of the process and that results were reviewed repeatedly before official certification.

He is known nationally for his advocacy for restrictive voting laws. He led President Donald Trump's commission that investigated Trump's false claim that millions of votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election, and has backed up Trump's claim despite never producing evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Colyer issued a public letter on Thursday evening requesting Kobach recuse himself from overseeing the final stages of the vote count in their race and defer to the state's attorney general.

"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's letter read. "Accordingly, I hereby request that you recuse yourself from rendering further advice in these matters and that you designate the Attorney General of Kansas to provide this function."

In an interview on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront," Colyer said it was "too soon" for him to request a recount and that he was waiting to see the results after outstanding ballots are counted. He said that, in the meantime, Kobach's recusal would be appropriate.

"I want to make sure that Kansans have the confidence that we have the right legal advice in this and that every vote is counted," Colyer said.

When asked later in the interview whether he would support Kobach as governor should he win the primary, Colyer replied affirmatively.

"Yes, of course," Colyer said. "We want the Republican governor to win here in Kansas. It's about making sure (of) these Republican values, that the economy is growing, that our schools are well-funded. That's the important thing for me."

Any candidate in the race can request a recount in individual counties -- but most post a bond to cover the cost of the recount. Those recount requests must be filed with the Kansas Secretary of State's office by August 17. Kobach said in a news conference Wednesday that he would not recuse himself should Colyer seek a recount, which would begin on the county level before being certified by Kobach's office.

County canvassing boards have until August 21 to complete their canvasses. The Secretary of State's Board of Canvassers must then certify the official results by August 31.

This story has been updated.

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