By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Election concerns raised at commission meeting
Straub sees possible security problems
commission talks about election concerns
Members of the Barton County Commission discuss election issues with Kansas Sen. Alicia Straub, R-Ellinwood, during their meeting Wednesday morning. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As the State of Kansas and Barton County come off one of the most hotly contested primary elections in recent memory that saw record turnouts earlier this month, Kansas 33rd District Sen. Alicia Straub said she worries about the security of the voting process.

Straub raised her fears when she addressed the County Commission Wednesday morning.

“One thing that has really bothered me in the last week is our elections and the security of our elections,” she said, stressing her frustration was not directed at Barton County Clerk/Election Officer Bev Schmeidler. “It’s in no way her fault. But some things have been brought to light concerning the security of our elections. And it deeply concerns me.”

Straub serves on the Senate Budget Committee and they heard a number of the election security bills. “And my biggest issue in hearing all of that testimony was our there’s no way really to audit our voter rolls.”

Sure, county clerks go through them periodically and remove people who are deceased or who have updated their driver’s licenses and updated through the statewide Election Voter Information System. “But for any other purpose, we don’t audit that voter roll, so we could have hundreds or thousands of people (statewide) who are on our voter rolls who don’t actually reside where their voter registration says they do.”

That is a huge problem, she said.

Also troubling was news out of Reno County this week, she said.

The candidates were listed in different orders in different precincts where the votes were audited, causing a problem with the company that programed the software creating the electronic ballots. The voting machines tabulated the ballots incorrectly, she said.

“Thank goodness, they have a paper copy, but they’re going to have to go back and hand recount all of those,” she said. “I suspect this happened in numerous places across the state and we often just don’t know. Unless you hand recount each one of these, we just don’t know.”

She asked the commissioners, who met as the Board of Canvassers Monday morning to canvas the ballots, what precincts they audited and if they did any hand recounting.

Schmeidler said the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office told the counties what races to audit. There were five this year and they audited one precinct in each. 

Someone from outside her office randomly drew which precincts were to be included. Her audit board hand-counted all of those and there were no discrepancies.

Another concern raised by District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier was the use of ballot drop boxes. Barton County has two, one in Great Bend and one in Hoisington.

“I would not have drop boxes,” he said. But, that not a decision made by the commission.

Straub agreed with Krier. “That was another issue,” she said.

“Is your biggest concern with people making sure they live where they say they live?” said commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3. “You think they might move and then travel back to that district to vote?” 

This could be a problem, as could people from out of the area requesting mail ballots, Straub said.

“When you go and actually audit an election roll, these are the things that they’re seeing,” she said. “So, I have lots of concerns.”

Bottom line, she said, “if there’s any way possible to hand recount everything, I would do it. I would just do it.”

Hutchinson jokingly said the Clerk’s Office was taking applications for the hand-counting process.