Voting Problems, Fraud, Scandals Plague Polling Places Across America: Kansas
KANSAS – November 21, 2018
Election Day in Kansas was marked by strange polling locations, which the authorities moved outside the city. In Dodge City, a federal judge decided not to move the site to another location when the authorities initially set up a place outside the city and more than a mile from the bus stop. While the only polling station for the city's 28,000 registered voters for two decades was the civic center in a majority white part of the city.
Such a strange decision didn't please many; people were outraged by their inability to get to the polling station, although the percentage of voters didn't fall much from the last presidential election in 2016.
Despite the requests and demands of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas to assist in the opening of other centers, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree denied the motion seeking a temporary court order forcing Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox to reopen a voting location at the old civic center location after she moved the city's only polling site to a facility outside city limits and more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.
The judge noted that from September 28 Cox had been notifying voters of the change by letter and through the media – advertising in newspapers, on the radio and on the county's website.
"For the court to insert itself into this process on the eve of the election – by ordering the reopening of the Civic Center either as the only polling location or a second polling location – likely would create more voter confusion than it might cure," Crabtree wrote.
As it turned out later, despite the allegedly full informing about the transfer of the polling station, many residents only learned on November 6 that it would take them from one to three hours to get to the polling station.
As a result, the city had long lines that stretched for more than half a mile. People stood in line for one to four hours.
In addition, the court’s initiative before the decision was supported by the Secretary of State of Kansas Chris Kobach. It seems the authorities were worried there would be confusion after the vote count, and that polling station employees would take too long to divide the list of voters and create new ones.
As Kobach himself later explained, there was no sense in opening multiple sites because it would be impossible to compare the polling books of two polling places in real time to protect against double voting.
At the same time, no one wondered why it was impossible to open several polling stations from the very beginning. Not even one or two, but three or more, to move the sites closer to the city so that everyone could make the trip.
Authorities and poll workers in Johnson County were worried that voting machines would break again, as they did in the last election. It did not happen, but there were still long lines due to a lack of ballots, as workers forgot to pick them up from the central election headquarters.
Although in the 2016 election, Johnson County was the last county in Kansas to report election results due to a "huge influx" of advance ballots, voter registrations and high voter turnout. Old voting machines were also to blame.
Then in August, even with brand new machines, Johnson County was again the last county to report results. Several statewide primaries couldn't be called until the next morning.
"We've seen a huge delay in results reported. We've seen issues with the machines. We've seen issues with poll worker training. It's just been a real mess in Johnson County," said voters' rights advocate Davis Hammett. "And there seems to not be a great effort to standardize it to make elections run effectively."
This time the fears were not confirmed though the County also did not hurry with the counting of votes.
There were also long lines in Wichita. There are over 65,000 registered voters in Sedgwick County alone. Authorities, knowing this problem has existed for a long time, also didn't take care to open an additional polling station.
In addition, authorities are still investigating why polling stations in Wichita took longer than expected to count votes.
Once the polls closed, poll workers were required to print and tally the votes from the voting machines.
Because Wichita County allows voters to cast their ballots at any vote center regardless of which precinct they live in, poll workers from each of the 26 voting centers had to calculate how many votes each precinct got.
"Was it in precinct 41? Was it in precinct 109? Was it in precinct 211? The equipment has to get that number for the county," said election judge Steve Garner, "It's a tape that's printed on a piece of paper on a long roll and that’s just time consuming."
Garner said tallying up the final count took anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half, depending on the polling location.
That is not where the counting ends. They then had to take that information to the County Courthouse where staff members were also working hard to count mail-in ballots.
Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom Jr. said hundreds of voters did not use the ballots that were sent to them from the county. Instead, they filled out and mailed back ballots that they had individually printed off the internet.
This is all because the authorities did not have a system and allowed people to choose where to vote. Because the paper that voters used to print ballots from the internet could not be run through the scantron machines, it took 10 hours to rewrite everything on official paper.
Wichita County Clerk Lori Bohannan said in a statement that a couple of other issues came up while counting ballots such as paper jams and the computers getting hot, but she said that is nothing out of the ordinary.
There were also long lines in Olathe and the polling stations did not close until late in the evening.
In Manhattan City, in addition to long lines, voters faced confusion in the registration lists.
So, while many people were able to go out and make their voices heard Tuesday, a group of students at K-State said they were not due to a mix up with the Riley County Clerk's Office.
The members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at K-State claimed that the Riley County Clerk's Office lost 104 voter registration forms they collected through their voter registration drives.
However, the Clerk's Office said that they were never turned in in the first place.
Just a day before the election, a student who registered to vote at the fraternity’s registration drive mentioned that he had not received his voter registration card.
That’s when Kemondre Taylor, who was in charge of the fraternity’s voter registration drives, checked with the Clerk's Office only to find out that the forms were nowhere to be found.
Taylor said he turned in the forms to the Clerk's Office eight days before the registration deadline and that he even went through the forms with an employee.
"We went through the forms and separated the absentee ballot applications from the regular registration forms," said Taylor. "She said we'll get these submitted for you and if there's any errors, she’ll call those people."
However, County Clerk Rich Vargo said that was not true, and that they have no record of the fraternity turning in any forms that day.