Last Tuesday's Republican primary in Kansas has the two candidates for governor separated by fewer than 200 votes, out of over 300,000 cast, with all precincts reporting. There are still some absentee and provisional ballots to be counted, but it seems certain, as the New York Times reports, that the race is headed for a recount. As the sitting Kansas secretary of state, however, Kobach himself will be in charge of supervising the recount. The conflict of interest is glaring and hardly needs to be pointed out: Kobach's own political interests are directly at stake in a process superintended by his office.
Remarkably, Kobach has announced that he has no plans to recuse himself, as reported in the Kansas City Star:
“The recount thing is done on a county level, so the secretary of state does not actually participate directly in the recount,” Kobach said at a campaign event in Topeka after initial results showed him winning by fewer than 200 votes.
“The secretary of state’s office merely serves as a coordinating entity overseeing it all but not actually counting the votes,” Kobach said, contending that his role puts him at arm’s length from the actual recount.
“It has come to my attention that your office is giving advice to county election officials — as recently as a conference call yesterday — and you are making public statements on national television which are inconsistent with Kansas law and may serve to suppress the vote in the ongoing primary election process,” Colyer said in a letter.
[Colyer's spokesperson Kendall] Marr explained in a phone call that the campaign has heard that Kobach’s office told county clerks to disregard ballots with a smudged postmark. Marr said that ballots received before a Friday deadline need to be counted.
Kobach later announced on CNN that he would recuse himself:
Marr added that “on top of the recusal, we’re also asking that the secretary of state stop giving incorrect information to the counties, particularly related to the mail-in ballots.”