In an apparent reversal, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office is instructing election officials in the state to send out overseas military ballots without Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor or any other Democratic Senate candidate listed.
Kobach spokeswoman Samantha Poetter confirmed to TPM that the ballots would be sent out by Saturday, the deadline under state and federal law.
“Our ballots are going out without Chad Taylor (or any Democratic candidate) for U.S. Senate,” Poetter said. “They’ve been ordered to send them out as soon as possible.”
TPM obtained a copy of the official order sent to local election officials.
“The list does NOT contain the name of a Democratic nominee for United States Senate,” the order said. “There are three candidates, Randall Batson, Libertarian, Greg Orman, independent, Pat Roberts, Republican.”
“All (overseas military) ballots MUST go out by tomorrow to comply with the 45 day requirement under state and federal law,” it said.
Kobach lost his bid to keep Taylor on the ballot at the Kansas Supreme Court Thursday. But afterward, Kobach said the Democratic Party should pick a new nominee. Local reporters quoted Kobach saying that he would move the mailing deadline for overseas military ballots, which must be sent 45 days in advance of the election under federal law, to Sept. 27 to give Democrats the time necessary to select a candidate.
Poetter said that Kobach still expects Democrats to name a new nominee. But as for what Kobach would do if that happened after these absentee ballots had been sent out, she wouldn’t say.
“I actually cannot answer that for you,” Poetter said. The secretary’s office is exploring its options, she said.
She also would not say if Kobach would sue to force Democrats to name a new candidate.
The order to election officials cited “currently pending litigation concerning the United States Senate race.” A registered Democratic voter has filed a lawsuit to force Democrats to name a new candidate.
“Because of this, we are asking each county to keep all returned (overseas military) ballots bundled together and unopened upon receipt until the conclusion of the litigation,” the order said.
UPDATE: 5:22 p.m. ET
TPM has obtained a copy of a letter that Kobach sent Friday to county election officials. In it, he points to the ongoing litigation by a registered Democratic voter who is suing to force the state Democratic party to name a new candidate.
“Depending on the outcome of this litigation… it is possible that there will be a recertification of the list of candidates,” he wrote. “Our intent is to recertify the list of candidates if the Supreme Court orders the Democratic Party to name a replacement nominee or if the Democratic Party otherwise names a replacement nominee as it is required to do under Kansas law.”
Subsequent ballots could then be sent, Kobach said. He also wrote that his office had been in consultation with the Justice Department about the issue.
Election officials are also instructed in the letter to include a notice with the ballots being sent now that explains the ongoing litigation and the possibility that a replacement candidate will be named.