Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary is now just 121 votes, after two counties reported discrepancies in their initial tallies, officials revealed Thursday.
The counting is not complete because state law says mail-in ballots that are postmarked Tuesday can be accepted by the counties as late as Friday. And county officials still must review perhaps several thousand provisional ballots, given to voters at the polls when their eligibility is in question. They have until Aug. 20 to finish.
Voters cast 311,000 ballots in the close contest between the embattled governor and a conservative lightning rod.
Colyer released a letter after his campaign announced that it had set up a “voting integrity” hotline, and urged people to report their complaints about the election.
Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said it received “countless” reports, saying he personally knows of several dozen.
“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 his letter to Kobach.
As secretary of state, Kobach is the state’s top elections official, setting rules, giving county officials guidance and appointing election commissioners in the state’s four most populous counties.
Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert said the secretary of state would respond to Colyer’s letter Friday.
Deputy Haskell County Clerk Emily Aragon said that the county was still missing a precinct when it sent initial results to the secretary of state’s office Tuesday night. The county sent updated results later that night, but hundreds of new votes were not made public until Thursday.
Colyer received 220 votes in Haskell County, up from the 103 previously reported. Kobach received 257 votes, up from 110 previously reported.
The net change in Haskell County is 30 votes in favor of Kobach, which moves his margin from 91 to 121 votes.
The final, unofficial results posted on the secretary of state’s website showed Kobach — perhaps President Trump’s closest political ally in the state — winning Thomas County in northwest Kansas, with 466 votes to Colyer’s 422. But the tally posted by the Thomas County clerk’s office showed Colyer with 522 votes, or 100 votes more for him, a number the clerk confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday.
Bryan Caskey, state elections director, said county officials pointed out the discrepancy Thursday following a routine request to counties for a post-election check of the numbers.
“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 AP.
As Fox News previously reported, Kobach, an immigration hard-liner and a controversial figure nationally, climbed to the top of the field after receiving — less than 24 hours before the polls opened — a glowing endorsement on Twitter from Trump. The president referred to Kobach as a “fantastic guy” who would “be a GREAT Governor.”
Colyer raised more campaign contributions, was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and had the backing of a Kansas political legend, former Sen. Bob Dole. Colyer became governor in January, succeeding Sam Brownback.
But Kobach was an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy and the former chairman of his now-shuttered federal commission on voter fraud. He is best known nationally for his tough stance on illegal immigration, and for advising the Trump administration on immigrant policy, noncitizen voter registration and the 2020 census.
The left has criticized Kobach over policies it claims have the effect of suppressing voter turnout.
No state had gone further than Kansas in requiring prospective voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering, until a federal judge struck down the law in June as a violation of voting rights.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.