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Kobach’s lead in Kansas race cut after mistake

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary has shrunk after election officials discovered a mistake in the listing for one county’s results in the state’s tally of votes.

Kobach’s lead is now just 91 votes.

The final, unofficial results posted on the secretary of state’s website show Kobach winning Thomas County in northwest Kansas, with 466 votes to Colyer’s 422. But the tally posted by the Thomas County clerk’s office shows Colyer with 522 votes, or 100 votes more, a number the clerk confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Later Thursday, Colyer called on Kobach to recuse himself from providing advice to county election officers.

“It has come to my attention that your office is giving advice to county election officials – as recently as a conference call yesterday – and you are making public statements on national television, which are inconsistent with Kansas law and may serve to suppress the vote in the ongoing primary election process,” Colyer said in the letter.

Bryan Caskey, state elections director, said county officials pointed out the discrepancy Thursday following a routine request for a post-election check of the numbers to counties by the secretary of state’s office.

County election officials have yet to finish counting late-arriving mail-in ballots or provisional ballots provided to voters at the polls when their eligibility wasn’t clear.

“This is a routine part of the process,” Caskey said. “This is why we emphasize that election-night results are unofficial.”

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms said it’s possible that her handwriting on the tally sheet faxed to the secretary of state’s office was bad enough in the rush of primary-night business that the number for Colyer wasn’t clear.

“They just misread it,” she told The Associated Press.

Colyer’s campaign said Thursday that it had set up a “voting integrity” telephone hotline after it had received “countless” reports of voters experiencing issues at the polls.

Kobach is the state’s chief elections officers and told reporters Wednesday that he knew of no reports of irregularities outside of a long delay in the reporting of results from Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, because of issues with its new machines.

“We’ll certainly be going through the results county by county,” Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said.

Kobach is perhaps President Donald Trump’s closest political ally in the state, and he’s a vocal advocate of tough policies on immigration and strict voter identification laws who served as vice chairman of Trump’s now disbanded commission on election fraud. The president tweeted his endorsement of Kobach on Monday, less than 24 hours before the polls opened.

Kansas Democrats hope the drawn out battle and dissension within the Republican party could give them an opening to win the governor’s race in November in a red state.