Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach suggested Thursday he would recuse himself from overseeing how ballots are counted in the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary. Kobach is a candidate in the race and has an extremely narrow lead over his opponent, Gov. Jeff Colyer.
The announcement came after Colyer called on Kobach to step aside as ballots continued to be counted. In a letter to Kobach on Thursday evening, Colyer said that the secretary of state was conveying misleading information about mail-in ballots and that he had heard reports of Kobach telling county officials not to count ballots that had unreadable or missing postmarks. Colyer called on Kobach to allow the state attorney general to oversee the recount.
In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday, Kobach downplayed his role in counting ballots but suggested he would remove himself from the process.
“The counties do the counting of ballots, so there’s really no point to it, but I said if my opponent wishes me to, I’d be happy to. It’s purely symbolic; I don’t think he understands the process,” Kobach said. “We’ll be formally answering his request tomorrow, but I’ll give you a heads up, yes, I’ll be happy to recuse myself.”
Asked to confirm that Kobach would recuse himself from the counting of ballots, spokeswoman Danedri Hebert said, “The secretary of state doesn’t count ballots.”
Kobach’s comments come after discrepancies emerged between the unofficial vote totals his office displayed and those reported by some counties. While those kinds of discrepancies aren’t unusual, they prompted increased interest in Kobach’s supervisory role in the post-election count.
Kobach led Colyer by 121 votes on Thursday evening, but the tally is likely to change as more provisional and mail-in ballots are counted in the coming days.