Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach saw his lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary shrink to just 91 votes at one point Thursday afternoon after Kobach’s office said it had improperly recorded vote counts from a county in northwest Kansas.
Later, his lead ticked up to 121 votes, after a clerk in another county said they had left out a precinct when they submitted election results. Small variations in unofficial election results aren’t uncommon, but the shifting numbers on Thursday highlight how every small change is likely to be scrutinized in an extremely close race.
In unofficial results posted on its website, Kobach’s office said Gov. Jeff Colyer had received 422 votes in Thomas County to Kobach’s 466. But the county’s own unofficial results show Colyer actually got 522 votes. Bryan Caskey, the state elections director in Kobach’s office, told The Kansas City Star that officials had discovered the discrepancy during a routine check of vote totals with the counties on Thursday and would update the numbers on the secretary of state’s website.
“This is a routine part of the process,” Caskey told The Associated Press. “This is why we emphasize that election-night results are unofficial.” Shelly Harms, the Thomas County clerk, told the AP it was possible Kobach’s office misread the vote tally the county submitted. Harms told the Star the discrepancy was the fault of Kobach’s office.
The adjustment is the latest development in the race between Colyer and Kobach, who are separated by a razor-thin margin following Tuesday’s primary. While ballots are still being counted, the contest will likely go to a recount. As the state’s chief election official, Kobach is responsible for overseeing that process, but some say it would be appropriate for him to step aside. Kobach has no legal obligation to do so, however, and has suggested that he will not do so because county officials oversee the nuts and bolts of the recount process.
Kendall Marr, a Colyer spokesman, said the error showed why it is important to ensure every vote is counted.