As the days continue to pile up following this past Tuesday’s round of primary elections across the country, some candidates are still waiting for answers. In the originally circulated unofficial results, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach maintained a 191 vote lead over gubernatorial primary opponent and current governor Jeff Colyer. That lead has now shrunk to only 91 votes after an error was discovered in the statewide unofficial tally.
The original state’s results had Kobach with 466 votes in northwest Kansas’ Thomas County, while Colyer only had 422. The actual county results, though, have Colyer with 522 votes and Kobach with 466. Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms explained the mistake as simply a clerical error stemming from harried post-election transfers of numbers to the state. The error was discovered during a routine review of the numbers.
The newly fixed discrepancy means that the new unofficial results of last Tuesday’s primary have Kobach with 126,257 votes and Colyer with 126,166. With a total of more than 311,000 votes cast, a leading margin of only 91 votes is incredibly tiny.
Kansas laws allow candidates to request a state-funded recount if the ending margin between relevant vote totals is less than 0.5 percent. Should Colyer request a recount, Kobach’s own office would conduct it, and he has so far refused to recuse himself.
Colyer, for his part, became the sitting Kansas governor not that long ago, taking over the position after Trump appointed the state’s former governor, Sam Brownback, to a symbolic position meant to push for “religious freedom.”
Kobach is a close Trump ally, seeking to make it big in an election year that’s shaping up to be tough for such individuals. Although Trump has touted repeated GOP victories in special elections to fill U.S. House seats that have taken place while he’s been in office, on the one hand, those races have mostly been in strongly Republican districts to begin with. On the other hand, Republicans have repeatedly come up short of the leading margins they’d hope for to support the pipe dream that a “red wave” is coming this November.
In a Pennsylvania U.S. House district that Trump won by a huge margin in 2016, Democrat Conor Lamb won earlier this year, and just this week, Republican Troy Balderson edged out Democrat Danny O’Connor in an Ohio district via a less than one percent leading margin. Trump had won the district by 11 percent in 2016.
Ironically, Kobach is known nationally for his association with conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. He worked on President Donald Trump’s short lived committee meant to investigate the non-existent fraud, and on his home turf in Kansas, he’s sought to enact measures like requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. A federal judge, for the record, shot down that law in June, after it had already left tens of thousands unable to vote.
He now faces the reality — American democracy is complicated, and outcomes swaying away from one’s favor don’t mean there’s some big dark scary conspiracy — unless, of course, he’s mulling over that defense while holed up somewhere in Kansas this Thursday. Should he manage to make it to the general election later this year, he could face another reality check, with him only managing a one percent lead in polling over Laura Kelly, the candidate who would be his Democratic opponent.
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