Republican Primary For Kansas Governor Now Down To Less Than 100 Votes

The race for the Republican nomination for Governor between Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach is even closer than ever and will likely remain undecided for weeks.

The race for the Republican nomination for Governor has become even more razor-thin than it was the morning after the election with the discovery of previously uncounted votes from precincts in western Kansas, putting the gap between Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Governor Jeff Colyer to under 100 votes:

The Republican race for governor just got tighter.

Gov. Jeff Colyer’s campaign spokesman said Thursday that 100 votes for Colyer have been found in a western Kansas county, meaning Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is now only 91 votes ahead in the GOP race for governor.

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms confirmed in an email that Colyer received 522 votes on election day. The vote total reported for the county was initially 422.

Harms said in an additional email that the secretary of state’s office was responsible for the clerical error. She provided The Star with a scan of what she said was submitted to Kobach’s office on election night, showing 522 votes for Colyer.

Bryan Caskey, the director of elections who serves under Kobach, said in a phone call that he was not assigning blame for the error. “I’m just saying there was a discrepancy,” Caskey said.

Thousands of provisional ballots statewide have yet to be counted, however, and the true outcome of the primary race remains in doubt.

Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said in a phone call that the “discovery of 100 votes for Gov. Colyer that had not previously been counted highlight the need to thoroughly check and double check each vote and to make sure that every legitimate vote is counted in this race.”

Caskey said that the missing votes were discovered through the secretary of state’s office’s routine verification process, which asks each county to confirm its reported vote total.

He said errors occurred in other counties’ Tuesday night results, but those errors did not affect the governor’s race. He said that the office would update its results page Friday.

“We will adjust at some point. We’re not doing it on the fly,” Caskey said.

He said that the Friday totals also would include mail-in ballots, meaning the gap between the two candidates could possibly narrow or widen again.

With these new totals, the official vote total gives Secretary of State Kobach 126,257 votes (40.58%), with Governor Colyer getting 126,166 votes (40.55%) and 58,286 votes (18.73%) going to other candidates in the race. The difference between Kobach and Colyer now stands at just 91 votes (0.03%), well within the 0.5% margin under which the law in Kansas requires an automatic recount.

These numbers will change by the end of today due to the fact that mail-in ballots will have been counted by that point. At that point, the gap between the two candidates could grow again, or it could shrink, and it is within the realm of possibility that Governor Colyer could take the lead at that point. That, however will not be the end of the process since the Friday results will not include the processing and counting of provisional ballots, which are ballots where the initial voter choice was unclear, or ballots cast in cases where a voter may have voted in the incorrect precinct or did not have proper identification with them when they appeared to vote. The two most populated counties in the state, Johnson County, which is southwest of Kansas City, and Sedgwick County, which encompasses the area around Wichita, have come 3,700 provisional ballots between them and plan to meet to consider those ballots on Monday. Two other large Kansas counties, Wyandotte, which is the county surrounding Kansas City, and Shawnee, which is the county surrounding Topeka, will meet to consider their provision ballots next Thursday. Counties have until August 20th to finish their review of provisional ballots, and it would be at that point that a recount would begin.

Which the news of these new votes was coming out, calls escalated yesterday for Kobach to recuse himself during the recount process given that he is a candidate in the race. While the actual recount is carried out at the county and local level, the Secretary of State’s office has supervisory control over the process, leading the Colyer campaign and others to argue that it would be inappropriate for Kobach to have any role at all in a recount of a race in which he is a candidate. After initially resisting those calls, Kobach agreed late yesterday to recuse himself from the recount:

Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach of Kansas, clinging to the slimmest of leads in the Republican primary for governor, said Thursday night that he planned to recuse himself from the vote-counting process. Earlier in the evening, his opponent, Gov. Jeff Colyer, said that some local election officials had been provided incorrect information by Mr. Kobach that could suppress votes.

“I’ll be happy to recuse myself,” Mr. Kobach, who oversees the state’s elections, said in an interview with CNN. Mr. Kobach, who has the endorsement of President Trump and has built a national reputation for warning of widespread vote fraud, suggested that his role in the Kansas count had been mostly symbolic anyway.

The governor’s fiery recusal request, and Mr. Kobach’s pledge to comply, came after the nationally watched primary left the candidates separated by only 191 votes entering Thursday.

In a letter, Mr. Colyer said some clerks had been provided incorrect information about which ballots to count, and he urged Mr. Kobach to appoint the state attorney general to handle future questions from local election workers.

“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,” Mr. Colyer wrote.

That sour letter, sent just a day after both candidates called for Republican unity, underscored longstanding divisions within the state party and the extreme closeness of a nationally watched race in which thousands of votes have not yet been recorded. The extended counting process, which will last at least into next week and perhaps much longer, gives the already hopeful Democratic and independent candidates a chance to campaign while the Republicans remain mired in a primary.

Earlier Thursday, discrepancies emerged between the vote totals reported by Mr. Kobach’s office and the numbers posted on at least three county election websites. And Mr. Colyer was upset by Mr. Kobach’s statement on Fox News a day earlier that mail-in ballots had already been counted. (Though many mailed ballots were reported with the Election Day results, Kansas law allows ballots postmarked by Tuesday to count as long as they are received by Friday.)

Notwithstanding the fact that Kobach’s office only has a supervisory role in the counting and recount process, recusal seems to me to be axiomatic in a situation where the Secretary of State is a candidate. Indeed, I am somewhat surprised that this issue isn’t already covered by state law or regulations on the manner in which elections are to be conducted. In any case, the process is moving forward in Kansas and this looks like it will be an incredibly close race regardless of who ends up winning in the end.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Kris Kobach: “Boy, this democracy thing really sucks. They won’t even let me rig my own election.”

    I’m a little surprised Kobach hasn’t yet changed his middle name from William to Kevin or Kyle or Keith or….

  2. Kylopod says:

    If this had been in the general election rather than a primary, he wouldn’t have recused himself. The only time Republicans lift a finger to protect election integrity is when some of their own candidates may be negatively affected by the problems.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    It’s been widely reported that the Kansas R-party has suffered division and lost adherents during the ‘experiment’ of now-Ambassador Brownback. I haven’t run into a deep dive into how this played out in the recent R- primary. So I am of course an expert on the subject (putting down my cheap briefcase and pulling out an impressive stack of paper…)

    This really does look like a small pixel in a large picture of realignment.

    My realignment guru is Kevin Philips (‘The Emerging Republican Majority’ from ’68). He points out that major shifts in the life of a Party are led by relatively successful third-party campaigns. In the book, he predicted that George Wallace’s campaign of ’64 was an indicator that the long emotional connection between the Democrats and the Wallace demographic (does anyone recall that Wallace won the ’64 Dem primary in Michigan?) was weakening and correctly predicted the success of the ‘Southern Strategy’.

    In our present moment I think I see something similar except the ‘third party’ won the R-‘s nomination and then the general. So everything seems different when viewed from 30,000ft.

    When looked at from ground level it’s pretty familiar. The virtually exact bifurcation of the KS R-‘s would lead to the losing side spilling significant voters to the other party – as I suppose Rep Yoder must be experiencing. And as Mr Balderson’s 1% victory in OH 12th seems to indicate.

    As someone said: Stay tuned.

  4. Gustopher says:

    Doesn’t Kobach know that “recusal” is a dirty word in the modern Republican Party?

    I would hope the fact that he didn’t automatically refuse himself from the counting process would be disqualifying for a lot of potential supporters in the general election, but I don’t have that much hope left anymore.

  5. mattbernius says:

    Kobach has apparently recused himself after accusations that his office has been engaging in voter fraud irregular behaviors…

    “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 primary election process,” Colyer said in a letter.

    Read more here:

    (yes, I know it wasn’t voter fraud, but it was too good an opportunity/joke to pass up).

  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Indeed, I am somewhat surprised that this issue isn’t already covered by state law or regulations on the manner in which elections are to be conducted.

    We’re talking about a Republican-led state, why are you surprised? These are the people who are bringing back Jim Crow-era voter suppression.