Narrow vote gap in Kansas’ Republican state treasurer race triggers special audit

TOPEKA — A close race for the Republican nomination for state treasurer has triggered a new provision in state law that requires counties to conduct additional audits in especially close contests.

As of Thursday, state Rep. Steven Johnson held a slim 314-vote lead over his opponent, state Sen. Caryn Tyson. The unofficial total shows Johnson with 214,262 votes to Tyson’s 213,948 in the Republican primary. The race has not been called, and the vote count could change because of mail-in and provisional ballots. Mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Tuesday will still be counted if they are received by Friday.

But even after all the provisional and mail-in ballots are accounted for, a recently passed state law will require all 105 counties to audit an additional 10% of their precincts because the race was decided by less than 1% on election night. This special audit requires a hand count that will take place later this week, said state elections director Bryan Caskey.

“Every county will have to convene a hand count board and count all of those precincts by hand and compare them with the machine total that verifies that everything worked correctly,” Caskey told reporters Wednesday.

Caskey said this additional audit will mean different things for different-sized counties. Rural counties might be asked to audit just one or two additional precincts. But Johnson County, on the other hand, will need to audit approximately 60 more precincts.

The regular post-election audit requires each county to audit a statewide race, as well as a legislative and a county race. Counties will also be asked to audit the constitutional amendment vote, Caskey said.

The state board of canvassers must certify race results for federal and state offices no later than Sept. 1.

Johnson and Tyson are both farmers, and both have served since 2011 in the Legislature, playing important roles in crafting state tax policy as chairs of legislative committees. The eventual winner will face Democratic state Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the November general election.

Caskey also addressed reports in Sedgwick and Johnson counties of understaffed polling places. He said there were reports of an abnormal number of people calling in sick the morning of election day.

Unlike the November general election, August often presents challenges, such as vacations or preparations for school, that make finding a pool of backup volunteers more difficult, Caskey said.

“In November, I think both counties are going to work on creating a bigger pool of backup poll workers than they normally would,” Caskey said.

— Noah Taborda reports for Kansas Reflector.


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