Kobach to recuse himself from Kansas governor’s race recount

usbFILE PHOTO: Kansas Secretary of State Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his office in Topeka
FILE PHOTO: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his office in Topeka, Kansas, U.S., on May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo

August 10, 2018

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate endorsed by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Kansas governor’s race, said he plans to recuse himself from the vote recount after a correction in the total cut his lead to just 91 votes.

Kobach told CNN late on Thursday that as Kansas’s current secretary of state, he has no role in the counting or recounting of provisional ballots, and that all the work is done at the county level.

“So there’s really no point to it, but I said if my opponent wishes me to I’d be happy to. But it’s purely symbolic,” Kobach said. “I’ll be happy to recuse myself.”

In a letter to Kobach on Thursday, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer wrote that some clerks were given wrong information about which ballots to count and requested that Kobach recuse himself from “rendering further advice in these matters.”

“I believe that the designation of the Attorney General as a neutral party to advise county election officials on these matters will help ensure the confidence of the voting public in the outcome of the primary election,” Colyer wrote.

Kobach leads Colyer in the Republican primary by a razor-thin margin of 126,257 to 126,066, with potentially thousands more provisional and absentee ballots outstanding.

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that Colyer’s vote total had been corrected to 522, up 100 votes from the 422 initially reported.

Kobach told CNN he would formally respond to Colyer’s request that he recuse himself on Friday.

Kobach is a national leader of the push to restrict illegal immigration and pass more restrictive voting laws. He advised Trump’s presidential campaign on immigration issues and served as vice chairman of Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Trump called Kobach “a strong and early supporter of mine” and said he had the president’s “full and total” endorsement. “Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!” Trump wrote.

Colyer, the former lieutenant governor, moved into the top job earlier this year when Republican Sam Brownback took a job as the Trump administration’s ambassador for religious freedom.

Kansas state law allows for a recount if the vote margin is within half a percentage point, but the candidate has to request the recount. The candidate who requests the recount must pay for it if the results are unchanged by that process, Kobach has said.

(Adds word “to” in headline)

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York)