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Sedgwick County Commission Wants Election Audit Legislation Passed In 2018

Carla Eckels
KMUW/File Photo

The Sedgwick County Commission is seeking state approval to do voting machine audits regularly. The commission is working to get legislation passed in 2018 that will allow audits of election results.

Currently, the state of Kansas does not allow a review of ballots, except as it relates to specific election challenges.

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill on election audits last year. Commissioner Jim Howell says there is broad support for the legislation for the upcoming 2018 session.

He says Sedgwick County’s new voting machines are designed for audits.

"We would like to do random sample auditing across our county, and that would add a lot of transparency and a lot of confidence in our election process, and right now we don’t have that," Howell says.

He says that until now, judges have ruled that audits could potentially identify specific electors' choices, and therefore the paper trail couldn’t be legally audited.

Sedgwick County spent about $6 million this year to upgrade its 15-year-old voting equipment. The new machines were used for smaller elections earlier this year, and will be used in the city and school elections in November.

Howell says the new voting equipment in Sedgwick County and the other large counties in Kansas have many features to ensure privacy is protected and every vote will count.

"These machines actually print a paper ballot based on your selections," Howell says. "You can look at that piece of paper and verify that it in fact matches what you intend to vote for and once you do that, you simply feed it into a scanner that scans that in."

Howell says the county’s lobbyists are already talking to state lawmakers about the election audit issue and will step up efforts this fall. Howell testified on behalf of Sedgwick County during last year’s session, and he hopes to do that again in 2018.

The Sedgwick County Commission chose election audits as one of four priorities for its 2017 Legislative Platform. The county says the purpose of such an audit would be to verify that the reported election results are consistent with the ballots that were actually cast.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.