Election Officials Blame Staffing Shortage For Delays

By: Lily Wu and Phil White Email
By: Lily Wu and Phil White Email

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Four staff members from Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office came to Wichita today to define the problems that occurred during the general election.

Brad Bryant, the Kansas Elections Director, said that after a two-hour meeting, they have concluded that the Sedgwick County Election Office may have a shortage in staff that contributed to the delay in reporting results. He also added that more training on the software may be necessary for staff.

"Some people have a lot of duties assigned to them and might have difficulty focusing on the one that they need to do at the moment, which is posting election results," said Bryant.

Bryant met with Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman and a representative from the software vendor. He said software worked correctly and results were accurate during the final count.

"There was delay in reporting but the reporting itself was accurate. So, we need to keep that in mind," said Lehman. "We have done all kinds of auditing. We have checked the audit trails. Everything is exactly right."

The team from Topeka will present their findings to Kobach. It is unknown when Kobach will give a response on the solution to the problem.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Officials from the Kansas Secretary of State's Office will be in Wichita next week to help figure out what went wrong when trying to publish election results in Sedgwick County Tuesday night.

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman admits the reason the first election results were not posted until nearly four hours after the polls closed was she and her staff knew the county's election website would display that votes from all precincts had been counted when, in fact, they had not.

It's the same problem that her office dealt with during the August primary.

"What we're asking the vendor to do is help us find what we did so we can get it corrected so this is over," Lehman said.

The vendor, along with a three-person team from the Secretary of State's office will be in Wichita Tuesday to help figure out why Sedgwick County's voting system continues to inaccurately report vote totals.

Lehman said she now believes something happened as her staff rushed to rebuild the county's election database after new Congressional and state House and Senate districts were drawn in June.

"We had to actually rebuild that database in a matter of days because redistricting happened so late," she said. "So, because of that, we were not able to do as much testing before the primary as we would have liked."

Tuesday night's result delays were frustrating for voters, candidates and party leaders.

"We're very disappointed that the Election Commissioner's office didn't get the results out," Sedgwick County Republican Chairman Bob Dool said at a watch party Tuesday night.

"To get results from California, but not be able to get them from Sedgwick County is just aggravating," said Rep. Nile Dillmore, a Wichita Democrat.

Lehman said the problems have been aggravating for her, too. She said most elections before the primary, including a special tax vote she ran in February, went smoothly.

"When it repeated again, that was when the final piece of the puzzle came together and there's something that we did," Lehman said.

She said whatever mistake was made, it happened in her office and she is determined to find out exactly what that mistake was.

"I'm just going to wait to say, 'Here's what happened,' until we have gone through everything and we make sure that everything is perfect," Lehman said.

The Secretary of State's office says Kobach will not comment on the Sedgwick County issues until he knows what happened.

Lehman said a problem with shutting down some voting machines was a separate problem and not related to what delayed Tuesday night's results.

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