In what is still a tight race for the Republican Party’s nomination, Governor Jeff Colyer’s campaign has hired former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to assist with any legal counsel related to the canvassing process which starts on Monday.
“We felt it necessary to hire Todd Graves onto our team, because of some of the statements our Secretary of State has made in regards to the election,” said Kendall Marr, Colyer’s campaign spokesman.
On Friday, Secretary of State Kris Kobach sent a two page letter to the Governor saying he would recuse himself from election duties until the primary election is over.
Kobach said Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker would now oversee the canvassing process and will serve on the State Board of Canvassers, which certifies the final results.
“Therefore, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will carry out my election responsibilities, including membership on the state canvassing board and the state objection board. Mr. Rucker has served ably as Assistant Secretary of State during the eight years of my administration. He also served Kansas Secretary of State Jack Brier as his Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Elections. I have full confidence in Mr. Rucker’s ability to carry out these responsibilities,” Kobach said in his letter.
On Thursday, Colyer called on Kobach to recuse himself, saying Kobach was giving misinformation about counting mail-in and provisional ballots. Colyer asked to designate the Kansas Attorney General to oversee the election process.
“I want them to have the correct advice that everybody can rely on. And I think the attorney general would be the right person to do that,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said in his letter.
Kobach refutes Colyer’s claim.
“Guidance from my office has been issued to county election officials regarding the processing of mailed ballots and provisional ballots. This guidance is consistent with the guidance provided in years past and is in accordance with state law. Any guidance given to the county election officials regarding these matters is available to you upon request,” Kobach said.
Elections director Bryan Caskey, said when it comes to mail-in ballots and provisional ballots the counties are in charge of deciding if they can be counted.
“The ultimate decision rests with each of the 105 counties,” said Caskey.
Caskey added state law is clear about mail-in ballots needing to be postmarked by Election day.
“The law requires there to be a mark on when that ballot was submitted. If a smudge allows you to know what day it was sent, sounds great, there is a mark there that says so. But if the smudge is completely eligible I don’t know how you can comply with the law if you don’t know when it sent,” he explained.
Colyer’s campaign said while Kobach is handing off his responsibilities, they would like a third party to oversee the ballot counting process.
“While Eric Rucker is a good and decent man, we do not believe assigning Kris Kobach’s duties to an at-will employee, whom Sec. Kobach can fire at any time, actually addresses the clear conflict of interest that exists. We hope he will reconsider our request to allow the Attorney General to provide proper legal advice to county elected officials to reassure Kansans that the election between Secretary Kobach and Governor Colyer is free from conflicts of interest,” said Marr.