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KS: Touch screens seem OK as election officials check GOP warning

By   /   November 2, 2012  /   No Comments

By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter

About 245,000 Kansas voters, including these in Overland Park, already have cast ballots this election with little evidence of voting machine problems the Republican National Committee warned of.

FAIRWAY — Kansas’ top election officials say they are confused about why the Republican National Committee this week named the state among a list of six in which touch machines incorrectly recorded votes.

Committee chief counsel John R. Phillippe Jr., in a letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and five other state elections chiefs, expressed concern that “in a significant number of cases, voting machines in your states have populated a vote for Barack Obama when a voter cast his or her ballot for Mitt Romney.”

The letter does not claim any votes for a wrong candidate were actually cast or recorded on touch-screen machines, which voters in those states use. Kansas machines ask voters to review and then either amend or confirm their choices before the ballot is formally cast.

“Our elections division had no specific reports of any such incident before we received the letter,” said Kay Curtis, the Kansas Secretary of State’s communications director.

The secretary’s general counsel has asked Phillippe for more information about any specific Kansas incidents of malfunctioning machines, she said.

Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell in Topeka said his staff replaced one machine that early voters were using in his election office when a voter complained it appeared to be recording her vote incorrectly.

“We don’t know if it was or not,” Howell said. “But we replaced it right away and won’t put it back into service until we are sure it’s working.”

It could not be determined Friday if anything similar has happened elsewhere in Kansas since advance voting opened Oct. 22.  About 245,000 Kansans have cast ballots since then, or about 55,000 fewer than in 2008 advance voting. Kobach this week projected about 68 percent of the state’s voters will turn out this year, the lowest such total since 2000.

Phillippe in his letter asked Kobach and the other secretaries of state to recalibrate all touch-screen machines before Tuesday and to take extra steps to remind users of those machines to double-check their ballots before casting them.

Those other states include Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri and Colorado.

Election commissioners in each of Kansas’ 105 counties choose the precise voting system and equipment their local voters use from a group of 10 vendors approved by the state. None of those vendors returned calls about their machines Friday.

Contact Gene Meyer@gene.meyer@kansaswatchdog.org

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