Local officials spread across Kansas’ 105 counties will exercise an incredible amount of power this week when they determine whether thousands of ballots should count in the closest primary race for governor in Kansas history. The roughly 9,000 provisional ballots, awaiting rulings from county officials across the state, will likely decide whether Gov. Jeff Colyer or Secretary of State Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP’s standard-bearer in the fall. More than 40 percent of the provisional ballots were cast in the state’s two most populous counties, Johnson and Sedgwick. The ballots have the power to swing the Kansas race in Colyer’s favor or solidify a victory for Kobach. Kobach’s role as the state’s chief election official has heightened the scrutiny of the vote-counting process in the contentious race. After a backlash this week, Kobach announced Friday that Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will oversee the process in his stead.
Colyer’s campaign plans to send representatives to all 105 canvassing board meetings to ensure the governor receives every possible vote. The candidates went into the weekend separated by a mere 110 votes.
The uncertainty about the winner has drawn comparisons to the standoff between George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election, when a few hundred votes separated the two candidates in Florida.
Bryan Caskey, who works under Kobach as the state’s director of elections, said that usually 60 to 70 percent of provisional ballots end up being counted in the final tally.
“We always count more than we don’t count,” he said.