Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach handed over his election responsibilities to a top deputy on Friday who is known as a staunch conservative as he remains locked in a tight race with Gov. Jeff Colyer for the Republican nomination.
Kobach, who argues voter fraud is a significant problem, also accused Colyer of using rhetoric that may undermine public confidence in the election process.
Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will take over Kobach’s duties and will serve on the State Board of Canvassers, which will certify the final election results.
“Although I would discharge my duties ethically, impartially, and responsibly, I have carefully considered your request and have decided that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Kansas that I permit another to perform the duties of the secretary of state until the conclusion of the 2018 primary election process,” Kobach said in a letter to Colyer on Friday afternoon.
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Kobach’s letter came in response to a letter from Colyer on Thursday that demanded Kobach recuse himself from giving election advice to county election officers. Kobach rejected allegations from Colyer that his office was giving election officials incorrect advice.
“As governor of Kansas, your unrestrained rhetoric has the potential to undermine the public’s confidence in the election process. May I suggest that you trust the people of Kansas have made the right decision at the polls and that our election officials will properly determine the result as they do in every election,” Kobach said.
Colyer’s campaign didn’t immediately comment on Kobach’s letter.
Kobach’s lead over Colyer widened to 217 votes on Friday, as vote counting continued in the closest Kansas Republican primary for governor ever.
The new results from the secretary of state’s office came as counties reported votes from mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. But it was unclear where the total would stand at the end of the day.
The vote count is expected to change. County canvass boards will begin meeting Monday to sift through provisional ballots, with two large counties – Sedgwick and Johnson – both set to meet Monday. Provisional ballots are cast when a voters voter’s eligibility is in question.
Kobach’s lead, placed at 191 votes at the end of vote counting Wednesday, shrunk Thursday as additional votes for both Kobach and Colyer were discovered in multiple counties. In Thomas County, Colyer received 100 more votes than what the secretary of state’s office reported on election night.
But the county’s vote total remained unchanged as of noon Friday on the secretary of state’s website — raising the possibility that Kobach’s 217-vote lead did not account for the additional Colyer votes in Thomas County.
The final outcome may not be known for weeks. The State Board of Canvassers must certify the results no later than Aug. 31.
The extraordinarily tight race is the closest primary for governor in Kansas history, according to Smart Politics, a political news site run from ran out of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The margin – currently at less than 0.1 percent – would be the narrowest victory margin across 88 Republican and Democratic primaries in Kansas since 1910.
Only two primaries in state history have been decided by less than a percentage point: the 1956 Democratic primary and the 1974 Republican primary, according to the site. The average margin of victory in the state’s 44 Republican primaries has been 34.7 points.