In the end, not much changed after the Barton County Commission met Monday morning as the Board of Canvassers to certify the votes from last week’s Unified School District 428 special mail-in bond election.
The five commissioners crowded around a table in a back room of the County Clerk’s Office to pore over the provisional ballots. These are votes cast by voters who moved within the county or changed names.
This didn’t take long since there were only 11 of them. But, they did alter the final total ever so slightly.
There are two questions on the ballot: Question one, for $41,750,000 for assorted school improvements; and question two, seeking an additional $3,120,000 for a new Great Bend Middle School gym. The ballots had to be in Zimmerman’s office by noon last Thursday.
“We had a lot of questions in our office about why it was a mail-in election,” she said. “The school district requested the date of the election as well as the type of election.”
The date requested, Sept. 5, did cause some concern in Zimmerman’s office. Coming on a Thursday following a holiday (Labor Day), it created a time crunch and forced some vacation plan cancelations.
Also, “we were kind of disturbed by the number of undeliverable ballots,” she said. “We were kind of surprised by that.”
Either by mail or phone, her office tried to contact as many of the voters who cast uncountable ballots as they could.
The final count
After the canvass, the official “yes” total for question one moved from 1,993 to 1,999 while the “no” total changed from 2,538 to 2,453. For question two, the “yes” count went from 1,624 to 1,628 while for the “no” number went from 2,886 to 2,899.
Of the 10,469 ballots mailed, 56%, or 5,859, were returned, County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said. There were 1,196 undeliverable ballots, meaning her office had to consider 4,663.
Some ballots were left blank or the voter voted both “yes” and “no.” A handful couldn’t be counted because they weren’t signed, names didn’t match or they had the wrong address. This brought the total of counted ballots to 4,547 in the unofficial count posted last week, but changed to 4,558 Monday morning.
The voter turnout went from 43.4% to 43.5%.
Zimmerman said there will likely be ballots trickling into her office, but they will not count. In a typical polling-place-style election, ballots postmarked by the election deadline will be counted, but that is not the case with mail-in elections.
After the commissioners were done with their canvass, Zimmerman said the newly counted ballots would be strung on a thread along with the other ballots as per an antiquated state election law.