TOPEKA, Kan. — An all-Republican state board on Monday rejected a liberal Kansas activist's challenge to Secretary of State Kris Kobach's listing as the GOP nominee for governor on the November ballot after he argued that hundreds of legal votes were not counted in the primary election.
The State Objections Board concluded that Davis Hammet, of Topeka, could not show that Kobach's narrow victory over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the GOP primary could be overturned by the issues Hammet raised. It also rejected Hammet's argument that Kobach's chief deputy should not have been involved in reviewing the challenge.
Kobach defeated Colyer by 343 votes out of more than 317,000 cast. Colyer's supporters initially raised some of the same questions Hammet did in his objection, but the governor conceded the race a week after the primary.
"It is not merely that an objection has been made for one of the appropriate grounds. You also must present evidence that this election would be overturned," said Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker, who presided over the board's meeting.
But Hammet said later that he couldn't show that Kobach's victory might be overturned because counties wouldn't give him information about voters whose ballots were not counted. Also, he said, counties aren't consistent in how they report the number of rejected ballots. He did not rule out filing a lawsuit.
"None of my objections were addressed," Hammet said. "They just ignored every single argument I made."
Hammet is the founder and president of a voting rights group, Loud Light, and has frequently been critical of Kobach, other Republicans and their policies.
Kobach's campaign was represented at the hearing by Mike Roman, a former special assistant to President Donald Trump, who endorsed Kobach the day before the primary. Kobach advised Trump's presidential campaign and has advised the White House; the Kansas secretary of state also served as vice chairman of Trump's now-disbanded commission on election fraud.
Roman argued that Hammet did not have the right under Kansas law to file an objection to Kobach's nomination because Hammet is a registered Democrat and cannot legally vote in the Republican primary.
"I really don't think he has standing," Roman said.
The board rejected Roman's argument, based on previous cases, but Hammet criticized members for even considering the issue. He also argued that Rucker shouldn't have been involved in reviewing the objection because he's Kobach's top deputy and a past contributor to Kobach's campaigns.
Kansas law says objections like Hammet's are reviewed by a board made up of the secretary of state, the attorney general and lieutenant governor, or their representatives. Rucker was Kobach's substitute on the board, and the other two officials sent substitutes as well.
Hammet argued that someone outside Kobach's office should have replaced Kobach on the board, instead of Rucker.
Board members said there's nothing in state law allowing the officials to appoint representatives outside their offices to serve on the board.
But Hammet replied: "This is a ridiculous board in need of reform."