Clerical error leads to voter registration mixup between Barton, Douglas counties

Woman had been listed in wrong county for 2 years

It’s not like this was her fault.

Connie Finnegan of Lawrence had her voter registration mistakenly taken out of Douglas County and listed in Barton County. Her registration has been corrected in time for the Nov. 2 general election.

But Connie Finnegan, who lives west of Lawrence, now knows the importance of checking that your voter registration is up to date — especially before an election.

For the past two years, due to a clerical error — and without her knowledge — Finnegan was listed as a registered voter in Barton County even though she never left Douglas County.

Election officials here discovered the mishap this week, and it’s fixed now.

“I’m not placing blame. It sounds like it’s just a big, huge mess,” Finnegan said. “But I want everyone to make sure they’re registered to vote before the election.”

Here’s how it happened:

  • A woman with the same first name, middle name and birth date as Finnegan moved into Barton County and applied to register to vote there in 2008. The two women have different last names.
  • Election offices in Kansas have a system that lets them pull voting records from other counties. During the process of finding the Barton County woman’s voting record, a staffer in the Barton County Clerk’s office mistakenly pulled Finnegan’s Douglas County record.
  • No one discovered it until earlier this week after Finnegan questioned Douglas County officials about her registration. Because her registration was not recorded in Douglas County at that time due to the error, she cast provisional ballots in the November 2008 election and the August primary.
  • Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said his staff eventually discovered the mistake about Finnegan’s voting record getting moved to Barton County because a Barton County staffer likely saw the same first and middle names and birth date.
  • Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said a staffer missed checking the two women’s driver’s license numbers, which would have prevented the mistake.

“There are safeguards that don’t typically allow this to happen. It’s still embarrassing,” Zimmerman said.

She said the staffer who handled it no longer works there so she couldn’t do a more thorough investigation after the error was discovered this week.

Shew said the incident provides a lesson for all election officials.

And he said: “That’s why I tell people it’s really important, first of all, to check your voter registration on a regular basis. We hope that each one of us are doing our due diligence to make sure that this never happens.”

Douglas County voters can check their registration status at Voters have until Oct. 18 to register for the Nov. 2 general election.