New rules create uncertainty in Wichita mayor vote

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Election Day may be over but the votes are still coming in at the Sedgwick County election office.  That's all because of a changee in state law.  And it's creating uncertainty in a race where just 160 votes can decide who moves on to the general election.

"It sounds like it's not quite over yet and there are still results yet to be tallied," said Lyndy Wells on Tuesday night.  "I believe that it's important that we count all the votes."

Wells is just 160 votes behind Brandon Whipple in the race for Wichita mayor.  The winner moves on to the general election against incumbent Jeff Longwell.  

"It probably is correct that the anti-Longwell vote was split a bunch of different ways," Dr. Neal Allen, Wichita State University, said about the early results and why Whipple and Wells were so close in the original tally.  "With the biggest chunk going to either Whipple or to Wells."

Whipple is already planning the next steps of his campaign.

"We want to get the message out that for us to change Wichita, we need to change the person we send to City Hall," he said.

But at the election office downtown votes continue to arrive, more than 425 mail-in ballots and counting. A state law change a couple years ago means the elections office has to accept mail-in ballots until Friday, as long as the postmark is no later than Election Day.

The question is, will one candidate manage to dominate the mail-in vote enough to move the final percentages?

"When you take a look at the differences between the Wells campaign and the Whipple campaign," Dr. Russell Arben Fox said of Tuesday night's results, "It really all comes down to getting out the vote."

Whipple says he's confident his lead will hold.  Historically the counting of provisional ballots doesn't chang race outcomes.  But these are mail-in ballots. No one knows what will happen for sure.  

Wells says he's reserving his final comment until he knows the outcome of all the votes.

Whoever moves on they'll face a sitting mayor who was already touting his accomplishments in office as the results came in Tuesday night.

"Since January 1st of this year to today, we've reduced crime in this community by double digits," Longwell said, ending a list that included the new baseball stadium and work to encourage downtown development.  "About the only thing you can complain about is the way the mayor parts his hair."

A bipartisan commission will count those mail-in ballots Friday and add them to the current totals.  They won't finalize the election results though until the official canvass on August 15th.