Advance voters might want to watch where they put their coffee cups next election.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said too many advance ballots had coffee stains and other stuff on them. The ballots jammed a counting machine Tuesday night, delaying final results until nearly midnight.
"It was kind of a disappointing end to what I thought was an outstanding day," Shew said.
The final vote was counted about 11:45 p.m., he said.
A problem developed about 9:30 p.m., when Shew's staff started running the advance ballots - about 6,000 of them - through a scanner. The machine jammed and the scanner wouldn't work, he said.
Many advance ballots that were brought or mailed to the clerk's office had "coffee stains and all kinds of stuff" on them, Shew said.
"It comes from people who fill them out at home," he said. "It gummed up the sensors."
The ballot scanning machine was purchased a year ago, but it is based on older technology that has been in use for several years, Shew said.
Workers then switched to using the new, smaller ballot scanners that were used at precinct locations. Six of the machines were hooked up; ballots had to be fed to them by hand one at a time. The bigger ballot machine accepted stacks of ballots and automatically fed them through the scanner. It was fixed by 11:30 p.m., and the clerk's office ran the last 800 ballots through it.
In Douglas County, the advance ballots are not counted until after the others have been counted. Some counties start counting advance ballots before polling places close at 7 p.m., but the results are not tallied until later, Shew said. State law requires that at least 25 advance ballots remain uncounted until after polls close.
"Our advance vote turnout is so large now that processing those ballots (earlier) is something I just think that we need to look at," Shew said.
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Shew also noted that there are multiple audits and checks built into the way his crew counts the ballots - processes that are not used by other counties. He said he would consider shortening those processes.
Ballots from all but one precinct were counted before 10 p.m. Delays were encountered by workers at the 37th Precinct in the Coffin Sports Complex at Haskell Indian Nations University because of an unplanned-for basketball game that evening. Then, when workers began to drive to the courthouse with the ballots they were stalled by traffic leaving the Kansas University basketball game.
Shew commended his staff and poll workers for what he and Keith Campbell, deputy clerk for elections, said was a nearly flawless day with few other serious problems.
There were 34,248 ballots cast in Douglas County, which had a 45 percent turnout, according to Shew's office.
Local election results are unofficial until the ballots are audited and canvassed Monday by county commissioners.