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Once tasked with overseeing the integrity of the United States’ electoral system after spending much of his political career creating obstacles for Americans who want to vote, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach launched his latest attack on elections on Wednesday when he refused to recuse himself from a recount effort in a race he himself ran in.
Kobach was one of seven Republicans to run in the state’s primary for governor on Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, Kobach led incumbent Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes after technical difficulties in one county, signaling that a recount could be called.
At the state level, the Secretary of State’s office oversees all elections and recounts. Kobach argued as the close results came in Tuesday night that because officials in Kansas’s 105 counties would coordinate each county’s vote tallying effort, it was not necessary for him to recuse himself from overseeing the overall recount.
“The secretary of state’s office merely serves as a coordinating entity overseeing it all but not actually counting the votes,” the former Kansas GOP chairman said.
Kobach’s refusal drew ire from election experts and other critics.
“It would be good practice even if not required by state law for an election official to recuse from any recount or legal proceedings surrounding his or her own election efforts,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, told the Kansas City Star. “A longstanding English and American tradition is that ‘no man should be a judge of his own case.’ That should apply here.”
The election comes eight months after the President’s Election Integrity Commission, which President Donald Trump appointed Kobach to run last year, disbanded after facing multiple legal challenges and failing to prove Trump’s theory that he lost the popular vote in 2016 due to votes being cast illegally.
As the vice chair of the commission—which embraced blatant racism byrequesting Texas officials flag the voter records of residents with Hispanic surnames—Kobach continued a long pattern of using his political power to attack voting rights.
Kobach has championed the Interstate Crosscheck System, a program that compares states’ voter rolls and flags voters with the same name and date of birth in different states, recommending voter purges to states. Earlier this year, a federal judge tossed out a law Kobach had proposed requiring Kansans to prove they were U.S. citizens before voting.
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