A mathematician at Wichita State University who wanted to check the accuracy of some Kansas voting machines after finding odd patterns in election returns said she is finding out how difficult it can be to get government officials to turn over public documents.
Beth Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a doctorate in statistics, said her calculations from the November election showed enough patterns to suspect that “some voting systems were being sabotaged.”
Sedgwick County election officials refused to allow the computer records to be part of a recount and told her that to get paper recordings of votes, she would have to go to court and fight for them, said Clarkson, who is also the chief statistician for WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research.
She filed a lawsuit against the Sedgwick County Election Office and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach earlier this year, asking for access to the paper records that voting machines record each time someone votes. The record does not identify the voter.
The voting machines that Sedgwick County uses have a paper record of the votes, known as Real Time Voting Machine Paper Tapes, which similar machines in Kansas and around the country do not have. Because the software is proprietary, even elections officials can’t examine it and postelection audits can’t be done, according to Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit agency whose mission is to safeguard elections in the digital age.
Clarkson asked Sedgwick County to do a recount in 2013 but the time to file had expired. She then filed an open records request, but officials refused to provide the requested documents. She filed a lawsuit but the judge said the paper records were ballots, even though they didn’t identify the voter, and thus were not subject to the state’s open records law.
Clarkson filed for a recount after the November election, but Sedgwick County officials again refused, saying only a judge could release the records.
A lawsuit she filed in February against Kansas’ attorney general – and later amended to add the Sedgwick County election commissioner and Kobach – sought a court order giving her access to a certain number of voting records to conduct an audit.
She mailed it to the Sedgwick County election commissioner and Kobach, who under state law had 30 days to respond. Neither responded, later saying they weren’t aware they’d received the summons.
“I don’t know if we did or not,” said Eric Rucker, assistant secretary of state. “We are not going to comment on the status or the nature of this litigation at this time.”