After a clerical error made an already tight race closer in the Republican primary for Kansas governor, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a candidate in the race, has recused himself of his duties until the election is over.
Kobach, whose duties charge him with overseeing the tallying of votes and a possible recount, is currently leading in the race over current Gov. Jeff Colyer by a slim margin.
He announced his decision Friday to step aside after being asked Thursday in a letter from Colyer.
"I have carefully considered your request and have decided that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Kansas that I permit another to perform the duties of the secretary of state until the conclusion of the 2018 primary election process," Kobach wrote.
Kobach's announcement followed news Thursday that his 191 vote lead over Colyer had been cut in half, thanks to a "clerical error" his office is accused of making.
Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms told USA TODAY she faxed over the tabulations for both Kobach and Colyer Tuesday evening but somehow the numbers were inputted incorrectly by the Secretary of State's office, cutting 100 votes cast for Colyer.
But the secretary of state’s role in the actual counting of ballots is limited: Kobach's office provides guidance, compiles statewide vote tallies and provides general supervision. Kobach on Thursday night said staying out of further vote counting would be “symbolic” and even “pointless” even as he pledged to do it.
As of Friday evening, the gap between Kobach and Colyer had gotten smaller as more provisional and absentee ballots were counted. Kobach was leading by 82 votes. Several thousand still needed to be tallied before any decision on a recount would be made.
Kobach's said he would hand over the reins to his top deputy, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker. He went further and added Rucker would also serve on the three-member state board that will certify the primary’s final results by Aug. 31. Colyer is also a member of that board, and Kobach called on him to let Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann serve on the board instead.
Colyer's request on Thursday for Kobach to recuse himself also included an accusation that Kobach was giving county election officials guidance that was "not consistent with Kansas law."
Kobach tore down the criticism in his response and said it could cause some to question the credibility of the results.
“As governor of Kansas, your unrestrained rhetoric has the potential to undermine the public’s confidence in the election process,” Kobach wrote.
Contributing: Associated Press