Government & Politics

Kansas election official pushes back on Colyer letter, says law is clear on ballots

Kobach sees no problem overseeing a possible recount of his own race

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has no plans to recuse himself from a recount of his race against Gov. Jeff Colyer.
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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has no plans to recuse himself from a recount of his race against Gov. Jeff Colyer.

The Kansas director of elections said Friday morning that he takes exception to a letter from Gov. Jeff Colyer suggesting that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office has improperly advised county election officials.

Colyer’s campaign published a letter Thursday calling on Kobach to refrain from advising local election officials on the counting of ballots, specifically accusing Kobach’s office of incorrectly telling county officials to discard mail-in ballots.

“I actually was on the conference call, so I will contradict what’s in the governor’s letter,” said Bryan Caskey, the state’s director of elections who has served in the office for two decades and was elevated to his current role under Kobach.

“From my view it’s pretty clear if you have a ballot that was postmarked on or before election day… then it should count,” Caskey said.

The law requires that the ballots be “postmarked or are otherwise indicated by the United States postal service to have been mailed on or before the close of the polls on the date of the election.” Caskey said a bar code that shows the date the ballot was mailed would also suffice.

“It has to have an indication that the envelope was moved on time,” Caskey said.

“If you have a blank envelope, this is the law. It says this.”

After Colyer sent his letter, Kobach said on CNN Thursday night he would recuse himself from vote counting process, but Colyer’s campaign quickly pointed out that this did not amount to an official recusal.

“We don’t have an official recusal,” said Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr. “We want to see what that looks like tomorrow. We want to make sure it’s not a symbolic recusal. The secretary of state has a substantive role in this process and the recusal needs to be substantive.”

Marr added that “on top of the recusal, we’re also asking that the secretary of state stop giving incorrect information to the counties, particularly related to the mail-in ballots.”

In an email Friday, Marr argued in a campaign email that “receiving a ballot on Wednesday or Thursday by the Post Office is a clear indication from the Post Office that it was mailed on Tuesday or earlier.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has no plans to recuse himself from a recount process in the race for governor because any counting of ballots would take place at the county level.

A similar controversy about postmarks arose during the 2000 presidential election when Florida officials had to weigh whether to count ballots without postmarks that were sent by military personnel.

Caskey said that this was the first even-year election that the law, which also extended the deadline for mail-in ballots, has been in effect.

Colyer’s campaign also asserted that Kobach’s office advised local officials to disregard ballots with a smudged postmark.

Caskey said that he did not talk about smudged postmarks on the call, but the guidance would be the same that if there is no indication of the date on a ballot it should not be counted.

Gov. Jeff Colyer spoke Wednesday about the need to count all the ballots before considering any recount.

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