Republican Party voters may have to wait several weeks to learn of the final outcome of the party’s gubernatorial race in Kansas, where the top two contenders are separated by 91 votes.
A statewide recount of the Republican votes is probable due to the gap that is mathematically separated by .0003% of all GOP ballots cast in Tuesday’s primary election.
As anticipated, the race for the Republican nomination for governor was primarily between two candidates: incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump on the eve of Tuesday’s primary election, clung to a razor-thin when Tuesday’s primary election tally was released early Wednesday. Kobach had amassed 126,257 votes, which was a mere 191 votes ahead of incumbent Colyer, who had 126,166 votes.
In Montgomery County, a majority of Republican voters cast their support for Kobach. Kobach had 1,509 county votes while Colyer had 1,139 GOP votes.
There were five other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Kansas governor. The third-place candidates in the race was Jim Barnett, who had 27,499 votes statewide.
Waiting in the wings are uncounted mail-in ballots and provisional ballots in each of the 105 Kansas counties. The number of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots are estimated to be several thousand, which could sway the outcome of the Republican gubernatorial race.
Here’s what happens next in the election cycle:
• Beginning Monday, each Kansas county will begin the process of canvassing the results of its primary election. In many cases, the board of county commissioners acts as a canvassing board. The number of ballots that were cast in each precinct must match the number of voters who signed the poll book at their polling site.
Additionally, the canvassers will determine the validity of provisional ballots, which are ballots cast by a voter whose registration, party affiliation and/or place of residence may be in question. While all voters are allowed to cast a ballot, the canvassing board determines — on an individual basis — whether the provisional ballots can be counted. Provisional ballots are not counted on Election Day. Each provisional ballot is sealed at the polling site on Election Day; whether a provisional ballot is allowed to be counted will be determined on the day when canvassers meet. Those provisional ballots are allowed to be counted are then unsealed and counted. The final result is then certified by the canvassers and sent to the Kansas Secretary of State, which serves as the state’s chief election official.
Kansas counties will have until Aug. 20 to canvass their votes.
• Additionally, Kansas law allows for mail-in ballots. The ballots had to be postmarked on or before Aug. 7 and in the individual county clerk’s offices by Friday, Aug. 10 in order to be counted. Mail-in ballots are fairly common among military service personnel who serve overseas, college students who maintain their voter registration in their native county and citizens who are away from their state of residence due to job obligations.
• Meanwhile, Kansas does not have an automatic recount provision in its election laws. Only a candidate for office can seek a recount and pay for those costs. As the Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach said this week that a recount request must be made by 5 p.m., Friday,. Aug. 17.
• Once requested (and bonded), the recount would begin the following day, and must be completed within 5 days. If a request is made on Aug. 17, the recount would need to be completed by Aug. 22.
So who determines the final outcome of election results? In the same way a board of canvassers certifies the election results in individual counties, a State Board of Canvassers determines whether the statewide total of all Kansas counties is final. By Kansas law, the State Board of Canvassers is a three-person board comprised of the Kansas Governor, Kansas Attorney General and Kansas Secretary of State. In this particular case, Colyer and Kobach will be on the State Board of Canvassers; Derek Schmidt, as Attorney General, will serve as the third person on that board.
The State Board of Canvassers will meet and certify election results given them by the 105 counties no later than Friday, Aug. 31.
Offering another dose of political intrigue is how Colyer came into power. He was the lieutenant governor for Gov. Sam Brownback but was vaulted to the governor’s chair when Brownback assumed an ambassador role in the Donald Trump administration.
Because of the Brownback/Colyer connection to Trump, most voters would have assumed Colyer would have received Trump’s endorsement. However, Trump threw his support for Kobach, who briefly chaired Trump’s ill-fated election integrity commission. Kobach has been an ally of Trump because of the two men’s close philosophy on illegal immigration. Kobach has been the architect of several state laws across the nation dealing with illegal immigration.
ORIGINAL 191-VOTE LEAD NOW REDUCED TO 91
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 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, a number the clerk confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday.
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 Associated Press.