Independent candidate for Kansas governor Greg Orman will stay on the ballot after state officials rejected a challenge to his candidacy Thursday.
Will Lawrence, a staffer for the state Senate’s top Democrat, had questioned thousands of the signatures Orman used to secure a spot in the race, saying they weren’t collected properly or notarized correctly.
The State Objections Board disagreed. The panel ultimately removed a few hundred signatures because they were collected by a convicted felon.
Orman initially turned in more than 10,000 signatures. A staff member from the secretary of state’s office said during the board’s meeting that around 7,800 are valid, more than the 5,000 needed to get on the ballot.
Eric Rucker, representing Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office on the board, said the errors were outweighed by the rights of the voters who signed the petition.
“We have to find that they are the greater force in the constitutional scheme of things, and that’s what we did today,” Rucker said.
Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney arguing on behalf of Lawrence, objected to Kobach’s office having a seat on the panel because the secretary is also in the race for governor. He asked for an independent third party to be selected.
“The appearance of a conflict is so clear,” Irigonegaray said.
Rucker noted the concern before the panel continued its work. He said elected officials who oversee elections take an oath to fairly uphold the constitution.
Orman himself argued the whole exercise was aimed at keeping independent candidates like him off the ballot.
“We aren’t going to be deterred by these tactics,” Orman said.
Irigonegaray said the goal was to make sure the law was followed when the signatures were gathered.
“This was an effort to add legitimacy to the election process in Kansas,” Irigonegaray said.
The issue could now be taken to court, but Irigonegaray said the team hasn't decided if it will pursue that.
Right now, the fall ballot will include Kobach, Orman and Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, as well as Libertarian Jeff Caldwell and another independent candidate, Rick Kloos.
Some Democrats worry Orman will swing the outcome of the election in Kobach’s favor.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.
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