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Election team runs flawless election
New voting machines, first vote audit don’t phase staff
election update pic
Great Bend voters wait to cast ballots at the Holy Family Catholic Parish Center during last Tuesday’s general election. Election officials overcame firsts as all went smoothly. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Election Officer Donna Zimmerman had nothing but praise for her staff and the army of volunteers that worked last Tuesday’s general election. 

The election came as they faced two firsts this November – first use of brand-new voting equipment and the first-ever state-mandated ballot audit. However, all went smoothly.

“It is a real comfort to me as an election officer,” she said. “I just want to give kudos to all of them.”

The county in May took delivery of its new voting equipment. The $183,000 system from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software replaced the county’s decade-plus-old fleet of voting machines (also made by ES&S) and made a switch back to paper ballots.

Since this was a smaller, mid-term election year, they could get the kinks worked out prior to the presidential voting year in 2020, Zimmerman said. The cost included precinct scanners, electronic ballot marking devices, barcode scanners, encoders, hardened results computer and memory. 

The department has deployed 17 KnowInk Poll Pads to help streamline the election process. These took the place of paper poll books.

At the time, Zimmerman believed the machines would be easier for officials and voters. That turned out to be the case, she said.

The audit

This also marked the first election to fall under the statute passed by the Kansas Legislature last year requiring auditing of ballots, she said. Kansas election law requires a post-election audit be conducted after an election and prior to the meeting of the County Board of Canvassers. 

The county election officer is required to conduct a manual audit or tally of each vote cast in 1% of all precincts, with a minimum of one precinct. This shall be randomly selected and the selection shall take place after the election. 

For Barton County, it audited two races, and two precincts in each of them. Selected were the contested Great Bend mayoral race and a Unified School District 495 School Board race.

On Thursday morning in the County Clerk’s Office, a neutral three-member election board hand counted all the ballots cast Tuesday for those two contests, sans provisional ballots. It took about an hour.

“The results were exactly the same as they were on election night,” Zimmerman said. This was a wonderful accomplishment considering the challenges faced.

These will be forwarded to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. Had the numbers been off, they would have had to audit other precincts.