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Checks and double checks
Vote canvass yields no surprises
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Barton County commissioners and other county officials gather in the County Clerk’s Office Tuesday morning to canvass the votes from last Tuesday’s general election. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Neither the outcome of any local elections nor Barton County’s results from any other race changed. But, the County Commission’s canvassing of last Tuesday’s general election ballots Tuesday morning confirmed the integrity of the voting process.

Commissioners, meeting as the Board of County Canvassers, huddled in the back room of the County Clerk’s Office to review the provisional ballots cast last week. These are votes cast in the wrong polling places, by voters who moved within the county or changed names, or who were not registered properly.

They also counted write-in votes and incomplete ballots.

In the end, of the 101 provisionals, 80 complete ballots were counted along with four incomplete ones.

“We try to count as many people as we can,” said Darin DeWitt, county voter registration clerk. “We try to give the benefit of the doubt.”

The stack of large, yellow envelopes containing the ballots were divvied up amongst the commissioners. After being inspected, they were run through the vote-counting machine.

County election officials painstakingly reproduced the incomplete ballots and those from voters who voted in the wrong polling station. These were also fed through the counter, but filed with the originals in case questions arose.

There are a lot of safeguards and moving parts to a canvass, said Donna Zimmerman, county clerk and election officer. As the commissioners counted, her staff meticulously sorted and tracked the ballots.

“How could there be as much voter fraud as they claim with all these precautions?” said commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz. 

For the most part, Zimmerman said elections in Kansas run smoothly. But, “I’m glad to be conducting elections in a smaller community.”

How did the election go?

Out of 17,578 registered voters in Barton County, just over 8,500 cast votes, making the turnout 48.7 percent.

“That’s pretty good for a midterm election,” Zimmerman said. “Still, we’d like to see it higher.”

She noted some of the neighboring counties did do better. Stafford County, for example, was 61 percent.

This also marked the first election after the number of polling stations was consolidated. The county went from 21 boards overseeing polling at 23 sites countywide to nine boards and 11 locations.

The action was taken to help reduce costs and because of lack of poll station volunteers.

Zimmerman said there were complaints from voters in Albert, Pawnee Rock and Galatia (who now can’t vote in those communities). But, in lieu of traveling, they can vote by mail.

In all, “I think it went OK,” she said.

What does the future hold?

Come January or February, Zimmerman said the county will be looking at replacing its aging electronic voting equipment. The Barton County Election Office put its 89 iVotronics machines (which cost about $2,500 each for a total of about $300,000) into service in 2006. 

However, there were Help America Vote Act Endowment funds at that time which covered 90 percent of the county’s costs. That federal money will not be available this time, she said.

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Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman runs provisional ballots counted during Tuesday morning’s canvass through the vote counting machine. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune