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Post-Election Audits In Kansas Begin With 2019 Elections

LaRissa Lawrie
KMUW/File photo

Starting next year, Kansas counties are required to do post-election audits. The check will make sure the voting process — from equipment to office procedures — is done correctly, and the election results are accurate.

According to legislation approved earlier this year, a county election board will review at least one contested race on federal, state and county levels.

According to legislation approved earlier this year, a county election board will review at least one contested race on federal, state and county levels.

The audit will be a hand recount of paper ballots, regardless of the method of voting, in one percent of randomly selected voting districts in each county.

“We won’t know what precincts will be audited until after the election results have been posted, which is the right way to do that,” says Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

Sedgwick County spent about $6 million last year to upgrade its 15-year-old voting equipment. The new machines in Sedgwick County and other large counties in Kansas have features to ensure privacy is protected and every vote counts. The electronic voting machines are designed to be audited because they print a paper ballot.

Lehman says her office tested the new voting machines with two recounts this year. The most recent was a hand recount of the Republican primary for the 4th District Sedgwick County Commission race in August.

“Both of those recounts have come out exactly the same as what was certified and reported. So we have great confidence in our system, but it is absolutely important that we be allowed to do post-election audits on every election,” Lehman says.

The audits would be done before a county board of canvassers meets to certify the election results.

If a discrepancy is reported between the audit and the unofficial returns and cannot be resolved, the county election officer or the secretary of state may require audits of additional precincts.

Lehman says verifying election outcomes will help increase voter confidence.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a couple of recounts to where we could prove our system, but I think it’s very valuable that it be done on every election. So it’s a very good thing,” Lehman says. “It’s very important we get it right — not only that our office not make a mistake but that no one has tampered with anything.”

The Kansas Legislature approved post-election audits earlier this year after several failed attempts to get the legislation passed in recent years.

Previously, Kansas did not allow a review of ballots except as it related to specific election challenges.

Most states already do some form of post-election audits. The National Conference of State Legislatures says Kansas is among 30 states that conduct traditional post-election audits which compares the paper record to the results produced in a fixed-percentage of voting precincts.

The secretary of state’s office is still working out the policies and procedures for audits.

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.