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Sedgwick County Board OKs 1,300 Ballots Amid Increased Scrutiny

Nadya Faulx
The Sedgwick County Board of Canvassers meets Monday in Wichita to review provisional and disputed ballots.

The Sedgwick County Board of Canvassers met Monday amid a heightened sense of scrutiny following last week’s primary election.

More than 1,300 provisional and disputed votes were accepted and will be added to the final vote results this week. About 900 ballots were tossed out for a number of reasons: In some cases voters didn’t sign their envelopes before mailing the ballot back in, or they weren’t registered in Sedgwick County.

Ballots that were approved Monday went back to the election office to be counted and will be added to last week’s unofficial tally. The board meets again Tuesday to officially certify the results.

In this election in particular, every single vote counts: Some local races came down to fewer than 100 votes, and in the Republican race for governor, the narrow gap between front-runner Kris Kobach and incumbent Jeff Colyer is still fluctuating.
Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said her office has been double- and triple-checking numbers.
“We’re psyching ourselves up for a recount,” she said after the board had recessed. “We’re most likely going to have a local recount as well, so we know this is not even close to being over for us.”
A member of Colyer’s campaign was at the canvass but didn’t object to any decisions. Colyer said last week a representative of his campaign will attend canvasses in each of the state’s 105 counties over the coming week.

Confusion over unaffiliated voters in last week’s primary was the main hang-up during Monday's meeting. Of the 70 ballots cast by unaffiliated voters who didn’t correctly affiliate with a party when they voted, 14 were accepted. The board determined those voters were likely confused by the process or the form itself, something County Commissioner and canvass board member Jim Howell said needs to be addressed in future elections.

“I want to have a little more grace to them on that,” he said. “That’s a concern of mine, that I don’t want somebody to be disenfranchised because of a process.”

More than 180 provisional ballots were found to be the result of clerical errors by election workers. Lehman said some poll workers incorrectly gave unaffiliated voters provisional ballots, but said it was an error isolated to three locations.

“This is why this is so confusing because it only comes up every two years, so it’s confusing for voters and it’s confusing for our election workers,” she said.

“This is the nature of this. This is not anything abnormal. This happens every partisan primary. It is just this time there is much more scrutiny on this, and there’s much more attention because the votes are so close.”

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.