Topeka Shawnee County election officials must make a list of voters who cast provisional ballots available to a Democratic legislator and her Republican opponent in a tight House race, a judge ruled Friday.
District Judge Rebecca Crotty ordered the voter names released Friday lunchtime just hours after Rep. Ann Mah — a vocal critic of Secretary of State Kris Kobach — filed a lawsuit to gain access to the names.
Mah of Topeka trails her Republican challenger, Ken Corbet, by only 27 votes out of more than 10,600 ballots cast in Tuesday's election. Mah told The Associated Press she believes about 150 provisional ballots may come into play.
Voters cast provisional ballots when election workers aren't sure they are eligible to vote at a particular polling place, and the ballots are set aside and reviewed later.
Mah and other Democrats want to contact those voters to ensure they follow through on correcting the problems that forced them to cast provisional ballots in the first place, such as not having a valid photo ID or proof of their addresses. Once those problems are solved, county officials can count their ballots and Mah is hoping she will pick up enough votes to win.
"Our understanding is that there has been a longstanding practice of releasing this information for many, many years," Mah said before the lawsuit was filed.
She said she's not trying to find out how the provisional voters cast their votes.
Corbet took the news of the ruling in stride, saying he'll get the same list of voters.
"I'm still confident," he said. "We're still positive, and we're still hoping for the best."
On Thursday, Kobach's office sent two memos to county election officials suggesting that releasing voter names would violate state and federal law.
Kobach is a conservative Republican and a political action committee he formed helped Corbet days before Tuesday's election.
Kobach did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday.
Democratic Party officials gave The Associated Press a copy of the petition exclusively before Mah's attorney filed it in Shawnee County District Court. It names the Shawnee County Commission as the defendant because Mah asked the county for a list of voters and, the petition said, it rejected the request. The county commission is required to certify election results by Thursday.
Mah's two-page petition asked the district court to order the disclosure of the names and addresses of voters who cast provisional ballots.
But her attorney, Margie Wakefield, acknowledged in court that Mah would be satisfied with just the names, and that's all that Crotty ordered released. Crotty limited the release of the information to the candidates.
From the bench, the judge told the parties, "Why don't we see if there's any way this can be affected today."
Shawnee County Counselor Rich Eckert, representing the county commission, told her, "We're not going to sit on this."