As primary election night drew to an end Aug. 7, it grew into a drama for the top two Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Current Gov. Jeff Colyer’s contest with current Secretary of State Kris Kobach will have to wait for a full counting of provisional ballots and possibly a recount before a winner is declared.

Added to the closeness of the race was the fact that as secretary of state, Kobach has a duty to manage the vote counts – but that creates a conflict of interest due to his candidacy.

So, Gov. Colyer called for Kobach to recuse himself from the canvassing process.

Initially, Kobach refused.

The brouhaha has made national news.

Colyer’s push for Kobach’s recusal came soon after Kobach’s lead over Colyer in the unofficial statewide tally from Tuesday’s primary dropped to less than 100 votes.  

That was the result of a discrepancy discovered in the vote total from Thomas County in western Kansas. The county election office reported Colyer won 522 votes, but the Secretary of State’s office was reporting Colyer won 422 votes in Thomas County.

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms said the mistake was made by the secretary of state’s office, not hers, according to The Kansas City Star. She supplied a scan to the paper of the report she said was sent to the secretary of state’s office.   

Various media outlets soon discovered discrepencies in several other counties, including Wyandotte County, leaving the exact difference between Kobach and Colyer uncertain.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office told The Kansas City Star vote totals at the Secretary of State’s office’s website would be updated Friday. 

In his letter directed to Kobach, Colyer called for Attorney General Derek Schmidt to oversee the vote count instead of Kobach.

Colyer wrote he had heard reports of Kobach directing county election officials to toss out some mail-in ballots.

Colyer also said he has set up a “voting integrity hotline,” citing “countless reports” from voters saying they had issues at the polls.

The Secretary of State’s office says it plans to update unofficial vote counts with provisional and mail-in ballots by 5 p.m. Friday. Any mail-in ballot postmarked by election day and received by the Secretary of State’s office by Friday should be counted. 

County canvassing boards are set to begin meeting next week to certify their county’s results.

In a cable news interview Aug. 9, Kobach said he will recuse himself from the vote-counting process. 

“There really is no point to it, but I’ve said if my opponent wishes me to, I’d be happy to. It’s purely symbolic. I don’t think he understands the process,” Kobach told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. 

But, Colyer may understand the level of ethics Kobach would likely bring to the table in a recount.

The vote discrepancies are one indication.

Another would be Kobach’s recent court problems.

While defending a proof-of-citizenship voting law in federal court, he was found in contempt by the judge, the law (which he co-authored) was declared unconstitutional, and he was ordered to pay the legal bill for the plaintiff, the ACLU.

And there’s the time he discarded thousands of provisional ballots in November 2016, claiming there was no record the voters were registered.

There’s the time he threw out more than 18,000 voter registration forms for people who wanted to vote in Kansas but failed to conform to the requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Put simply, 18,000 people were not allowed to vote so Kobach could catch fewer than 10 people who voted fraudulently.

There’s the time the Associated Press discovered Kobach was flying around the country on non-Kansas business in a Kansas Highway Patrol airplane and not reimbursing the state.

And then there’s the time a Wichita State University instructor wanted to inspect ballots for election integrity following a close governor’s race that could have unseated incumbent Sam Brownback, and Kobach went to court to prevent the inspection from happening.

– The Community Voice with contributions by STEPHAN BISAHA & KYLE PALMER, Kansas News service 

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