Today’s Must Read: Kansas Ballot Counting Issues Echo Florida 2000

KC Star:

Local officials spread across Kansas’ 105 counties will exercise an incredible amount of power this week when they determine whether thousands of ballots should count in the closest primary race for governor in Kansas history.

The roughly 9,000 provisional ballots, awaiting rulings from county officials across the state, will likely decide whether Gov. Jeff Colyer or Secretary of State Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP’s standard-bearer in the fall.

County election offices spent the days after the election separating provisional ballots into categories. Canvassing boards will then vote on whether to accept the ballots in each category.

Caskey said that a voter may be told to cast a provisional ballot for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a government-issued ID, but the most common reason is that voters changed their address and forgot to update their voter registration.

“That’s the No. 1 reason every election,” he said. A change of name could also force a voter to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, he said.

Colyer’s campaign has identified specific categories of concern, including unaffiliated voters who were told to cast a provisional ballot.

Kansas voters must belong to a party to cast a primary ballot, but Kansas law allows a voter to declare a party at a polling place on Election Day.

Kendall Marr, Colyer’s spokesman, said he was first given a provisional ballot when he tried voting in Shawnee County.

Marr was listed as an unaffiliated voter and was told he could cast a provisional ballot. He then asked for a full ballot and registered as a Republican to vote in the primary.

“We’ve heard of quite a few people who had these issues,” Marr said. “We just want to make sure that all the votes are counted appropriately, that everyone had the chance to vote in the Republican primary that wished to.”

Hundreds of mail-in ballots also may be in legal limbo because of a dispute between Kobach’s office and Colyer’s campaign about whether they require a postmark to prove they were sent by the Election Day deadline.

“Our hope is that he gets a fair shake,” Marr said of Colyer. “I think there’s a few things we can do to ensure that, several of which we’ve included in our letter to the secretary of state.”

Robert Scherer, a 78-year-old unaffiliated voter, said he showed up to his Lawrence polling place to cast a ballot for Colyer.

“Mainly, it was a vote against Kobach,” he said.

Rather than register him as a Republican, the poll worker instructed him to cast a provisional ballot, Scherer said. He was confused by the instructions but went ahead with a poll worker’s guidance because there was a line of people behind him….

On Friday afternoon, two election workers in Wyandotte County were sitting at computers with stacks of provisional ballots to review as Election Commissioner Bruce Newby watched.

An appointed board also was sorting 207 valid mail-in ballots that were postmarked before 7 p.m. on Election Day but not received at the election office until later.

Newby, a Kobach appointee, noted that three mail-in ballots arrived Wednesday but did not have postmarks.

“We can’t count those,” Newby said. “The thing that really ticks us off is that for all intents and purposes, it’s the Postal Service that’s disenfranchised that voter. And shame on them.”

 

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