Election Office Error Creates Confusion

By: KAKE News Email
By: KAKE News Email

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Update: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Before celebrations could begin, every candidate was cautious in declaring victory last night.

"It looks as though there's still some precincts to be counted, so this is not a victory celebration yet," said Marc Bennett, to his watch party supporters shortly after 11 p.m.

The delay in reporting was just one of the problems from the Sedgwick County Election Office.

The main confusion surrounded the first batch of results. Those results showed 92% of precincts reporting, when in fact, those numbers were only from advance ballot votes. A button was selected incorrectly on the computer system.

"We are very sorry for the confusion that it caused. Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened. I have learned that this has happened here before. It's just that those people aren't here anymore so we learned again not to do that," said Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner.

Lehman blames turnover in the office and a reduction in staff for the glitches. She also said she was expecting a lower turnout for the primary.

"If we'd been staffed at that 25%, they probably would've been okay, but then we had a few sites that really had to work harder and we feel very bad about that," said Lehman.

Even Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh was asked about the problems by voters.

"That's where the frustration is, not only waiting but wondering about accuracy. In the final analysis, I think accuracy is not an issue, but some of the timing of this can be improved," said Unruh.

Lehman said additional training on the reporting process will be provided to the staff before the Nov. 6th general election.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For candidates, election night is nerve racking.

So much time and effort, all leads up to one night.

But Tuesday night's election took the waiting game to a whole new level.

Final results were not released until 11:15 p.m. The reason?

Apparently a wrong box was checked on the computer system, indicating a majority of the precincts had been reported. However it was only the advance voting ballots that had been tallied.

A mistake the election commissioner blames on inexperience.

"We did not want to make any mistakes and then have to come to you and say you know what, we made a mistake," said Tabitha Lehman.

The error even causing some candidates to give early concession speeches.

"While there's still some precincts coming in, I think the gap is wide enough that it's pretty clear that the voters of Sedgwick County want Jeff Easter to be their next sheriff," Bob Hinshaw, republican candidate for sheriff, said.

But in fact, those numbers that were posted were only the advance ballot votes that had been tallied.

"That's what caused the confusion early on is because that was recorded as saying you know I think it was over two-hundred precincts had reported when all it was was advanced voting and that wasn't all the numbers for that precinct," Lehman said.

The election office then tried to double and triple-check the results before posting. The extra scrutiny took more time.

Lehman blames the mistake on lack of preparation time inexperience and short-staffing.

"You know I'm new, and the person doing the programming was new, and so yes, we've had some turnover," Lehman said. "We've had some reduction in staff, so you know it's all part of the economy."

Lehman said that she will use the mistakes made last night as a learning tool, and says that the election office will make changes to make sure they are not repeated.

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