Sedgwick County Rolling Out New Voting Machines Before Anticipated Special Election

Dec 29, 2016

The Sedgwick County Election Office is moving up the timeline for implementing new voting machines due to the possibility of a special election in 2017.

The new voting machines are due to arrive in January, and will undergo testing and preparation right away.

County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman told Sedgwick County Commissioners earlier this month that the machines should be ready if a countywide special election is called for the 4th Congressional District. Congressman Mike Pompeo was nominated to lead the CIA and faces a confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate.

To be safe, Lehman said there’s a backup plan.

"We are actually keeping 150 of the touchscreen machines and all of the paper ballot readers," Lehman told commissioners. "If the timing of the election is such that we cannot roll out the new equipment for the special [election], then we will use the old equipment for it and be ADA-compliant with having at least one touchscreen machine at every polling location."

Once a resignation is submitted, the governor will have five days to call for a special election that would take place 45 to 60 days later.

Lehman said the Election Office is holding off, for now, on election preparations such as reserving polling locations and getting workers.

She said once they know the timeline for the anticipated special election, they will have to work fast.

"One of the things that’s a big challenge for us is to find locations very quickly for a countywide election when you have to have all the polling locations open," Lehman said. "A lot of these locations right now, we give about a year’s notice on elections. So when we have a countywide special [election], it becomes very difficult to find locations, to keep the locations the same, if their calendars are not open."

Assistant County Counselor Jon Von Achen said the timeline mandated by state and federal law for special elections is challenging because some rules haven’t changed in several decades.

He said he's hoping the Kansas Legislature will come up with a solution before Gov. Sam Brownback has to call for the election.

"We are looking at not only addressing the circumstances we have now with an anticipated election, but what if we have an unanticipated special election – for example, an unexpected resignation, or an unfortunate death – so that when we go to fix it, that it’s fixed and we don’t have to go back and fix it again later on for a different circumstance," Von Achen said.

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Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

 

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