Elections board keeps Kobach in Kansas governor’s race

photo by: Peter Hancock

Members of the State Objections Board dismiss a challenge to allowing Republican Kris Kobach to be on the general election ballot due to inconsistencies in the way mail ballots were treated in different counties during a meeting Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. The three-member board included, from left, Gov. Jeff Colyer's chief counsel Brant Laue, Deputy Secretary of State Eric Rucker and Assistant Attorney General Athena Andaya.

Story updated at 7:10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10:

TOPEKA — An all-Republican board said on Monday that GOP candidate Kris Kobach’s name will stay on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, despite an objection from a liberal activist from Topeka.

That same board also said that a Republican candidate for the Kansas House who has been charged in Johnson County with election perjury for filing false information with election officials will also stay on the ballot.

Barring any further legal action, those decisions by the State Objections Board likely finalize the list of candidates whose names will appear on the ballot, meaning county election officials can now start preparing and printing ballots, some of which have to be mailed out to military personnel in less than two weeks.

The State Objections Board is made up of the secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general, or their designees. All of those officials in Kansas are Republicans, and serving as designees on Monday were Gov. Jeff Colyer’s chief counsel Brant Laue, Deputy Secretary of State Eric Rucker and Assistant Attorney General Athena Andaya.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach kicks off his general election campaign for governor during a news conference outside the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.

Kobach came under challenge not because of any questions about his eligibility, but rather because of one man’s general allegations about the conduct of the election, particularly in Johnson County.

Davis Hammet, 28, the founder of a nonprofit group in Topeka called Loud Light that promotes civic engagement, argued that hundreds of legal ballots were not counted in Johnson County, and possibly other counties.

He said those included mail-in ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not match the signature on file with the Johnson County Election Office. They also included ballots cast by unaffiliated voters who did not declare a party affiliation at the polling place.

In all, he said, Johnson County threw out 295 ballots, but Shawnee County did not throw out any ballots for those reasons. And had those ballots been counted, he said, they could have reversed the outcome of the Republican primary for governor, which Kobach won by 343 votes over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer.

photo by: AP Photo/John Hanna

Activist Davis Hammet, of Topeka, speaks with reporters about his challenge to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s right to appear on the November ballot as the GOP nominee for governor, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Topeka. Hammet says hundreds of legally cast ballots from the August primary were not counted, but a state board has rejected his challenge.

Many of Hammet’s arguments were the same ones that the Colyer campaign had made prior to Johnson County’s final canvass of the election, but Colyer ended up conceding the race a week after the election and did not ask for a recount.

The objections board, however, said Hammet didn’t show enough evidence that the outcome of the contest would have been any different, particularly because there was no indication of how many of those rejected ballots were cast in the Republican primary or the Democratic primary.

Hammet said in an interview after the hearing that his arguments could have been used to challenge any and all of the races in the Aug. 7 primaries, but Kansas statutes don’t allow that, so he chose to focus on the race with the narrowest margin.

26th District House race

The other case the board heard Monday involved Adam Thomas, the Republican candidate for the House in the 26th District, in southern Johnson County.

photo by: AP Photo/John Hanna

Brant Laue, left, attorney for the Kansas lieutenant governor’s office, and Eric Rucker, right, assistant secretary of state, ponder a legal challenge to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s right to be listed on the ballot as the GOP nominee for governor on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Topeka. Laue and Rucker were serving as members of the State Objections Board, which rejected the challenge.

Democratic candidate Deann Mitchell complained that Thomas filed to run in the district on May 31, claiming to live at a duplex occupied by a friend of his, when in fact he was still living at his old house in a different district.

She argued that Thomas did not actually move into the 26th District until July 5, five weeks after he filed, and that was when he moved from his old house into a completely different house.

Mitchell’s attorney, Vic Miller, a state representative from Topeka, argued that doing so violates Article 2, Section 4 of the Kansas Constitution, which states: “During the time that any person is a candidate for nomination or election to the legislature and during the term of each legislator, such candidate or legislator shall be and remain a qualified elector who resides in his or her district.”

Miller accused Thomas of lying, both when he changed his voter registration the same day he filed and when he filed paperwork to be a candidate on the primary ballot, saying he put down the address of a friend. He said it was impossible to believe that Thomas, his wife and their four children actually could have all moved into a small duplex that they would have to share with another man.

In addition, Miller provided affidavits from the owner of the duplex who said she did not know Thomas, as well as an affidavit from the occupant of the adjoining duplex who said he had never seen Thomas on the property.

Finally, Mitchell herself testified under oath that she and some of her acquaintances had observed Thomas and his family on several occasions during the five-week period at their old house, while neither he nor any of his family’s vehicles were ever seen at the duplex where he allegedly had moved.

Last week, Thomas was formally charged with election perjury in Johnson County for allegedly providing false information to election officials.

But Thomas’ attorney, Michael Kuckelman, said he does not believe the perjury case will ever go forward, and he argued that Mitchell’s objection was merely an attempt by a Democrat to remove a Republican from the ballot so she could win the race by default.

He also denied the allegation that Thomas was using a false address and said the Democrats never proved that he didn’t reside at the duplex during the five-week period, only that they had not seen him there.

After a lengthy hearing, the objections board agreed that there was not enough evidence to show that Thomas had provided false information, and it voted 3-0 to deny the objection.

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