WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Kansas election officials began reviewing some 9,000 provisional ballots Monday as the two candidates in the states tight GOP primary for governor appeared to dig in for a long and potentially nasty legal fight that could take weeks to play out.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a take-no-prisoners conservative, led the states low-key Gov. Jeff Colyer by a mere 206 votes out of more than 314,000 cast after the first day of counting provisional ballots. But 43 counties including the states two most populous ones are still left to report final results from the Aug. 7 election.
The canvass began early Monday in suburban Kansas Citys Johnson County, the states most populous county, where a board was set to review 1,800 provisional ballots ones given at the polls to voters when their eligibility is in question. Seventy-six counties were to start canvassing Monday. Some will meet later this week and next.
It was unclear how many of the provisional ballots were from the GOP race. Based on past elections, Kobach said, its likely that about two-thirds of them were cast in the Republican primary.
The disputed race seemed certain to intensify, with the candidates challenging each others legal interpretations, sending observers to monitor the vote count and raising the idea of lawsuits.
A new fight was brewing on how to count unaffiliated voters who were simply given a provisional ballot by poll workers without first having them fill out a party-affiliation statement. It was unclear how many ballots fell into that category.
A legal opinion issued Monday by the governors top attorney took issue with the guidance from the person Kobach appointed to oversee vote counters after he recused himself.
Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker told county election officials Sunday that if an unaffiliated voter did not first complete a declaration of party affiliation, that voter was not entitled to cast a ballot. The opinion from the governors office said provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters in a primary should be construed as evidence of voter intent and must be counted.
The counties have until Aug. 20 to finish the review of ballots.