Shelly Harms didn’t expect to find herself at the center of attention amid the stunningly narrow divide between Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer in their rumble for the GOP crown in the governor’s race.
The distance between Kobach and Colyer dwindled to a mere 91 votes after the Thomas County clerk noticed Kobach’s office had mistakenly under-reported Colyer’s votes from her county.
When the revelation was made public early Thursday afternoon, Harms spent the rest of her day answering questions from reporters.
“Things have been so quiet for the last 13 years, I guess it was my turn,” Harms said.
Harms faxed handwritten results to the state elections office after tallies were concluded Tuesday evening in her western Kansas county. She reported 522 votes for Colyer, but the state office mistakenly entered 422 for the total.
With the correction, the unofficial tally has Kobach at 126,257 and Colyer at 126,166.
“The discovery of this error shows the importance of getting this right,” said Kendall Marr, a spokesman for Colyer. “This is why you have canvass, this is why you check your math, and this is exactly why Gov. Colyer will ensure that every vote is counted fairly and accurately. The vote margin now stands at 0.02 percent.”
Colyer’s campaign announced it was setting up a “voting integrity hotline” — a possible allusion to Kobach’s efforts to unearth fraud as the leader of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity — after receiving “countless reports” of voting irregularities.
Harms said she discovered the mistake during a standard review and alerted the state to the problem at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
“My 5 looks nothing like my 4,” she said.
The 100-vote swing led to renewed consideration for whether Kobach should recuse himself from his work overseeing the election efforts or the inevitable recount. In a news conference the day after the election, Kobach emphasized he isn’t involved in actual ballot counting and said he would stay an arm’s length away.
Kobach also launched into his general election campaign, saying he didn’t want to give state Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka, or independent Greg Orman a leg up on the race.
“As this process plays out, we’re reminded that every vote counts, not just those of Republicans or Democrats,” Orman said. “Through their closed taxpayer-funded primaries on Tuesday, both parties were able to exclude the votes of more than 550,000 Kansans who are unaffiliated with either party. Voting in Kansas and the rest of the nation shouldn’t be a partisan process, and we’re now seeing exactly why it doesn’t serve the best interests of the people.”
Danedri Herbert, the spokeswoman for Kobach’s campaign, issued a news release for the secretary of state’s office that outlines the timeline for election results, which must be certified by the state no later than Aug. 31.
Counties can begin canvassing next week, reviewing provisional ballots and adding any late stragglers that were postmarked by Tuesday, before certifying results. They have until Aug. 20 to complete their work, but the deadline for a candidate to request a recount is Aug. 17.
Any recount would have to be completed within 5 days.
Johanna Warshaw, a spokeswoman for Kelly, said the senator would recuse herself if she were in Kobach’s position.
“It is very clear that voters are sharply divided,” Warshaw said, “but what’s also clear is that both Jeff Colyer or Kris Kobach represent another four years of the failed policies of (former Gov.) Sam Brownback.”