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Two tie township primaries force coin tosses
new deh canvass coin flip pic web
Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman, standing at left, flips a coin to determine the outcome of a township primary race during the Monday morning canvass of last Tuesdays primary. Also present are Barton County commissioners, other county officials and clerks office staff. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 Rarely is there a tie election in Barton County that must be determined by a flip of the coin. But, Monday morning, two township level primary races were decided by heads or tails.

The coin flip took place in the County Clerk’s Office as the County Commission met as the Board of County Canvassers. It happened after they determining that 71 of 90 provisional ballots were valid.

The first tie came on the Republican ticket for the Lakin Township treasurer. Incumbent Mark Hammeke and Corey Robl (both write-in candidates) each received four votes.

County Clerk Donna Zimmerman flipped the large silver coin provided by Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg and Robl won.

The second duel came between incumbent Dale Dirks and Mark Schultz on the Republican ticket for the Pawnee Rock Township trustee seat. Both write-ins, they each garnered three votes.

Again, the challenger came out on top with Schultz winning.

There were no Democratic votes cast for the Lakin Township post. There was one Democratic write-in for Pawnee Rock trustee.

A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there are questions about a given voter’s eligibility. Sometimes, they have moved or changed names.

In this case, there were provisional ballots from 19 voters which were not valid. Reasons include not being registered, not having proper identification or having changed parties past the primary cut-off deadline.

The total number of registered voters total was 16,981. With the provisional, there were 5,236 total ballots cast. 

Of these, 601 were Democrat and 4,635 were Republican. The final voter turnout was 30.83 percent.

Other election results

Zimmerman said this was the first election her office employed the electronic poll pads, tablets used to help voters check in at polling places. “It was really successful.”

For the most part, she said it sped up the voting process. The devices were used in Great Bend, Hoisington and Ellinwood.

The only snags were in Ellinwood, she said. This is the largest single voting site it and it took some time to get used to the pads.

However, by the end of the day, Ellinwood poll workers were pleased.

On the horizon, there are other changes in the works, she said. The $350,000 purchase of new electronic voting machines is slated for next year as part of the department’s five-year equipment replacement plan.

These would be a swing back to paper ballots, but the ballots would be tabulated with machines at each poll site, Zimmerman said. “I like paper. You can recount as often as you want,” she said, adding this equipment is top notch.

But, she struggles with the cost, especially when the current system still works. Zimmerman would like to postpone the switch as long as possible.

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.

There is not HAVA money available this time.