Sedgwick County commissioners voted Wednesday to buy new electronic voting equipment.
The vote came after a lengthy discussion about the integrity of electronic voting machines.
“Our elections are going to be no better than the equipment that we purchase,” said Beth Clarkson, a Wichita State University statistician.
Clarkson, who previously sued to get access to paper tapes from voting machines to search for discrepancies, said hand-counted paper ballots are the only way to provide “complete transparency of voting results to the public.”
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“Our machinery is capable of doing the job. The question is: Is it?” Clarkson said.
Chairman Jim Howell acknowledged the need for election audits but said the county got good feedback on the voting machines at a previous public display.
“There were lot of checks and balances in place in the ES&S equipment,” Howell said, referencing the chosen vendor, Election Systems & Software.
“It’s been certified by federal standards. It’s in different states and has withstood certification and audits both before and after elections,” he added.
There were a series of exchanges between Clarkson and commissioners, who disagreed over the integrity of elections with current voting equipment.
“As the number of votes cast in a precinct increases, you see the Republican candidate getting an increasing share of the vote. And this is in foreign excess of any increase in the share of the Republican voters registered within that precinct,” Clarkson said, referring to some of her research. “This is a sign that our elections are being rigged.”
“Could it be a sign that just more Republicans are showing up in that district?” Commissioner Richard Ranzau said. “I mean, you’re making a large leap there.”
Commissioners approved the staff recommendation, which includes an initial purchase price of $4.4 million. The total 10-year cost with maintenance and support is about $7.8 million.