Narrow vote gap in Kansas Republican state treasurer race triggers special audit

Mere 314 votes out of 428,000 cast separate GOP rivals Johnson, Tyson

by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A narrow margin in the race for the Republican nomination for state treasurer triggered a new provision in state law requiring counties to conduct additional audits in especially close contests.

As of Thursday, state Rep. Steven Johnson held a slim 314-vote lead over opponent state Sen. Caryn Tyson. The race has not been called with mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Friday still to be tallied, along with provisional ballots.

The unofficial total shows Johnson with 214,262 votes to Tyson’s 213,948 in the Republican primary.

Then, a recently passed state law requires all 105 counties to audit an additional 10% of their precincts because the race was decided by less than 1% on election night. This special audit requires a hand count that will take place later this week, said state elections director Brian Caskey.

“Every county will have to convene a hand count board and count all of those precincts by hand and compare them with the machine total that verifies that everything worked correctly,” Caskey told reporters Wednesday.

Caskey said this additional audit will mean different things for different size counties. While rural counties may be asked to audit just one or two additional precincts, Johnson County will need to audit approximately 60 more.

The regular post-election audit requires each county to audit a statewide race, as well as a legislative and county race. Counties will also be asked to audit the constitutional amendment vote, Caskey said.

The state board of canvassers must certify race results for federal and state offices no later than Sept. 1.

Johnson and Tyson entered the GOP campaign for state treasurer with similar backgrounds. He is a farmer from Assaria and she is a farmer from Parker. Both have served since 2011 in the Legislature, playing important roles in crafting state tax policy as chairs of legislative committees.

The eventual winner will face Democratic state Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the November general election.

Caskey also addressed reports in Sedgwick and Johnson counties of understaffed polling places. He said there were reports of an abnormal amount of people calling in sick the morning of election day.

Unlike the November general election, August often presents challenges, such as vacations or preparations for school, that make finding a pool of backup volunteers more difficult, Caskey said.

“In November, I think both counties are going to work on creating a bigger pool of backup poll workers than they normally would,” Caskey said.

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