Board of County Commissioners chairman Ed Eilert checks his cell phone following the Johnson County Board of Canvassers meeting, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, in Olathe, Kan. County election officials across Kansas on Monday began deciding which provisional ballots from last week's primary election will count toward the final official vote totals, with possibility that they could create a new leader in the hotly contested Republican race for governor. Secretary of State Kris Kobach led Gov. Jeff Colyer by a mere 110 votes out of more than 313,000 cast as of Friday evening. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Kobach widens lead over governor in Kansas GOP primary

August 14, 2018 - 7:25 pm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach still led Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican race for governor after provisional votes were counted Tuesday in the state's most populous county.

Johnson County released its count Tuesday evening, which pushed Kobach over Colyer by just 345 votes out of more than 315,000 cast.

That's a slight increase from earlier in the day, when the state's second largest county, Sedgwick County, released its numbers and put Kobach ahead of the sitting governor by just 298 votes.

Kobach has been narrowly ahead since the Aug. 7 election.

"We expect this trend to continue and as this trend continues, I'm issuing a call to unity to all Republicans as we now gear up and start marching in the general election campaign," Kobach said. "It's absolutely essential that we march together. Whenever Republicans in Kansas are separated, Republicans in Kansas lose."

Colyer was expected to issue remarks in Topeka later Tuesday evening.

His attorneys sent a letter to the Johnson County Board of Canvassers an hour before the board met arguing that it should include more than 150 ballots that were discarded because the signature did not match the voter's registration.

Provisional ballots are cast when a voter's eligibility is questioned. Those votes are now being counted by the state's 105 counties in a process that's expected to stretch out over the week and into Monday.

But under state law, the candidates must decide by Friday whether to seek a recount.

If either candidate wants a recount, he must request one by Friday evening, under a Kansas law specific to statewide races. State law has no provision for an automatic recount, no matter how close the race.

Kelly Arnold, the chairman of the state's Republican Party, said he expects the campaigns will wait until Friday's deadline to decide whether to ask for a recount, especially if the race ends up extremely close within 200 votes or so.

"That's not a bad thing," Arnold said. "If you are a candidate and you have been campaigning for a year and a half and raising money from donors and your volunteers put their blood, sweat and tears into a campaign, you want to make sure everything is done accurately. I have faith in the system that we have here in Kansas."

Kobach had a 206-vote lead on Monday, when the 105 counties began reviewing nearly 9,000 provisional ballots to determine how many of them were cast in the Republican primary and how many will be counted. They have until next Monday, Aug. 20, to finish that process and certify the local results.

More than two-thirds of the counties reviewed provisional ballots on the first day of counting this week.

Fourteen smaller counties began canvassing Tuesday. Two others will begin Wednesday, and six counties will start Thursday, including Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. Rooks County in northwest Kansas has scheduled its canvassing for Friday, and six counties have set it for Aug. 20.

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Associated Press writer Margaret Stafford contributed to this story from Kansas City, Missouri.