Archive for Monday, August 13, 2012

Shawnee County to hold special election after ballot mix-up

August 13, 2012, 10:29 a.m. Updated August 13, 2012, 1:50 p.m.


— A Topeka polling place will have a special election for 432 voters after some received the wrong ballots in last week's Kansas primaries, officials decided Monday.

The Shawnee County Commission set the special election for Aug. 28, limiting it to voters who cast ballots in two precincts. They will be able to vote again in two Kansas House races and for Republican and Democratic party precinct committee positions. An attorney for the county called the action "unprecedented," but commissioners saw it as the fairest way to resolve the problem.

The decision caused frustration for the top two candidates in a three-way contest for the Republican nomination in the 52nd House District. They were separated by only 41 votes out of more than 4,000 last week, so the special election could determine the winner. Meanwhile, they're losing several weeks of fundraising and campaigning for the November general election.

Shawnee County Elections Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter said the mix-up occurred because the supervising judge at the polling site, the Light of the World Christian Center, didn't follow election training in handing out ballots. Her office said up to 87 voters received the wrong ballots, but it couldn't pinpoint exactly which voters.

"There probably isn't the best solution before us right now, but what would seem the most fair is that these folks are entitled to vote again," said Commissioner Mary Thomas, a Democrat. "We get a do-over."

The county commission — meeting as a local Board of Canvassers to certify election results — had the choices of counting all the votes, counting none of them or holding a special election. Commissioner Ted Ensley was only Democratic candidate in the 52nd House District; he removed himself from the decision, and the commission replaced him for the certification.

State law says only that a county board of canvassers will do "what is necessary" to ensure an accurate vote count. Shawnee County Counselor Rich Eckert said his research showed that courts have ordered new elections in the past, but he couldn't find an instance of county canvassers doing it. The State Board of Canvassers — the governor, the attorney general and secretary of state — must formally certify counties' results, and Eckert said a court challenge is possible.

With a special election, state officials and the courts will at least have multiple sets of results to consider. The county would use paper ballots and count them by hand.

"I'm not saying that you can't do it," Eckert said. "I'm saying it looks to be fairly unprecedented."

The ballot mix-up affected contested Republican primaries in both the 52nd and 56th House districts, but in the 56th, the winner, Janet Mitchell, of Topeka, received 80 percent of the vote, prevailing by more than 1,400 votes. Also, Deiter said, races for the parties' precinct committee spots could have been affected.

In the 52nd House District's Republican primary, Shanti Gandhi, a Topeka physician had 1,487 votes, or 37 percent, to 1,446 votes, or 36 percent, for Dick Jones, a retired naval and U.S. State Department officer. The third candidate, attorney Scott Hesse, received 1,122 votes, or 27 percent.

Gandhi told the canvassers that a special election would be unfair because Hesse's supporters — knowing now that he can't win — can switch candidates. But he later acknowledged to reporters that he doesn't see a good solution.

"It's very a very difficult situation to resolve," he said. "My only point is, how did this happen?"

Jones took the decision in stride, joking, "If I win, it was the right decision."


kernal 5 years, 6 months ago

So ironic that his happened in T-Town. What was that comment of Kobach's, the week prior to the primaries, that this would be a breeze? LOL

Hooligan_016 5 years, 6 months ago

Remember, it's voter fraud that's rampant throughout the state. Not poor training.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

This does nothing but highlight the fact that in any human endeavor, human error will be a part of the process. In this case, it was someone who handed out the wrong ballot. But there is an underlining problem. That being that the voters didn't know they were being given the wrong ballot. If I'm given a ballot in November and my choices are Kennedy and Nixon, then part of the problem is with the worker. But if I simply vote for one or the other, then I'm part of the problem as well.

Whether or not we're talking butterfly ballots in Florida, illegal immigrants attempting to vote, or precinct workers giving the wrong ballots to voters who don't even know the difference, some of that is going to happen. It comes with being human.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

From my memory, it was one worker at one polling place that gave out the wrong ballots to some voters, who then proceeded to vote using the ballot they were given. Apparently, two precincts were using the same building as their place to vote.

mycatsrightorwrong 5 years, 6 months ago

A knowing violation of election law by the Shawnee County board of canvassers.

KSA 25-3002(b)(3) says that "when a registered voter has cast a provisional ballot intended for a precinct other than the precinct in which the voter resides but located within the same county, the canvassers shall count the votes for those offices or issues which are identical in both precincts... The canvassers SHALL NOT COUNT the votes for those offices or issues which differ from the offices or issues appearing on the ballot used in the precinct in which the voter resides." That means they shouldn't count the votes, but even if you argue that the ballots in question aren't provisional ballots, KSA 25-409(b) says that "such provisional ballots, TOGETHER WITH OBJECTED TO AND VOID BALLOTS packaged in accordance with K.S.A. 25-3008, and amendments thereto, shall be reviewed by the county board of canvassers at the time prescribed for canvassing votes, and such board shall determine the acceptance OR rejection of the same." So even if they aren't provisional ballots, the only choices were to count or not count. A re-vote wasn't an option.

Eckert never found re-vote precedent because the canvassers didn't have that authority. The reason he found courts that had done it is because K.S.A. 25-1448 does allow a court to order another election be held within 45 days if a contestant to an election prevails on the grounds that voters are deprived of the right of voting and the deprival could change the result of the election. However, this isn't an election contest (yet), it was still at the canvasser stage. They overstepped their authority. It seems awfully convenient that the Republican opponents' co-commissioners came up with a (illegal) way to continue the Republican primary, causing them to waste their time and resources on each other.

The appropriate resolution was obviously ignored. I would suggest an investigation into whether the canvass board and Eckert conspired to bog the Republican candidates down in an extended primary and litigation.

Jonathan Becker 5 years, 6 months ago

The problem , cat, is which 87 of the 432 ballots do you not count?

mycatsrightorwrong 5 years, 6 months ago

My reading of the law is throw out or count all 432, no other choice.

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