As the 2018 midterm elections inch ever-closer throughout the United States, primary elections are being decided, and parties are putting forward their candidates for the general election.
In Johnson County, Kansas, however, the system appears to have hit something of a hiccup, with the decision that the county will accept more than 1,500 provisional ballots, including dozens cast by unaffiliated voters. Those voters were allegedly given incorrect instructions by the poll workers, but now their votes could tip the balance in the republican primary for governor, but they could also “tip the scales” in favor of one candidate despite the previous guidelines.
In a shocking twist, Kobach and the incumbent governor are separated by the thinnest of margins; a mere 110 votes, as of early Monday.
Also on Monday, the Johnson County Board of Canvassers voted, in a unanimous vote, to fully accept 1,176 ballots.
Included in that total are 57 ballots cast by unaffiliated voters, who were told by the poll workers on election day to cast provisional ballots.
Election law in the state of Kansas prohibits voters from switching their party affiliation on the day of an election, but members who are unaffiliated can declare the party they wish to vote for at the polls.
This same canvassing board also voted to partially accept 275 ballots, and to completely disregard 898 ballots.
Governor Colyer’s campaign had expressed concern about the people incorrectly told to cast provisional ballots, an issue which Metsker said happened in Johnson County.
According to the election commissioner, Johnson County seemed to have a number of problems at this particular polling location.
These few dozen unaffiliated voters were part of a group of 264 voters in the county who were given incorrect instructions.
The decision of the county, and of Metsker, to count these votes seems to be at odds with the statement released by Kansas’ Assistant Secretary of State, Eric Rucker, who is taking Kobach’s place in overseeing the election process.
In an email Rucker sent out late on Sunday, he said that if an unaffiliated voter did not complete a document declaring party affiliation, then the voter was not entitled to vote during a party primary.
Laue stated that according to Kansas law, the provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters must be considered as evidence of voter intent, and thus must be counted.
Clay Barker, who is currently Colyer’s special assistant and who served as executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said that it seemed like Johnson County elected to ignore the guidance from Rucker, and instead do as they have done in the past and count the provisional votes, which are evidence of a mistake on the part of the poll worker, not the voter.
Among the 898 ballots thrown out on Monday were a number of ineligible ballots.
Four of the ballots were thrown out for illegible post mark or no post mark information. Obviously, these were mail-in ballots.
Another 59 votes were thrown out due to inability to show photo ID as required by law in the state of Kansas.
A whopping 272 votes were thrown out because the voter tried to vote in the opposing party’s primary.
Kansas changed its law concerning registration in 2014, so now voters must declare their party affiliation for the primary season on or before the filing deadline for candidates.
This was likely done to cut down on people being able to vote in the opposing party’s primary, hoping to force through an unpopular or generally terrible candidate.
Thirty-five mail-in ballots were not counted, because the voters did not declare their affiliation.
Finally, one ballot was invalidated because the voter died between the vote being cast and counted.
The Board of Canvassers has said that they will reconvene later today, with the intention of certifying the primary election results.
Still, it is an interesting tale of intrigue, and does show how candidates who are involved in the political world could, conceivably, exert undue influence over elections, possibly even preventing certain ballots that could go against them from being counted.