Senator who serves on Election Committee says Tuesday was ‘worst voting experience ever’

Voters check in at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church for the primary for the 2018 mid-term election. (August 7, 2018)
Voters check in at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church for the primary for the 2018 mid-term election. (August 7, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

A state senator said Tuesday’s election was her “worst voting experience ever,” due to inaccurate instructions on electronic voting machines and long delays checking people in.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita and the ranking minority member of the Senate Elections Committee, said her voting machine gave her flat-out wrong instructions when she tried to cast a write-in vote for precinct committee member. She also said that the check-in process was slow and glitched at the Edgemoor Recreation Center where she voted.

She said she saw two voters who she knows personally experience problems with the electronic poll books that say who can and can’t vote. One man, a longtime resident of the neighborhood who has voted there for decades, was told his name didn’t show up as a registered voter. Another woman who lives across the street from the recreation center, and has voted there for years, was told the records said she lived in Derby, Faust-Goudeau said.

“To me it was a long, unnecessary process,” she said. “I went over there myself at 9:15 and I didn’t leave ‘til 10:30.”

Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said she would contact the senator and the polling place judge and attempt to address the complaints. She said she arrived at the Edgemoor center about 11 a.m., and didn’t see any problems at that point.

In addition, Faust-Goudeau said the on-screen instructions were unclear on how to make sure voters saw all the candidates’ names in the governor’s race. As currently configured, the voting machines can only display four candidates at a time.

Because both Republicans and Democrats fielded more than four candidates for the governor’s race in the primary, voters have to toggle between screens on the voting machine to see all the names.

And while there is a screen that pops up to warn voters if they haven’t seen all the candidates’ names,

Faust-Goudeau said that most voters — especially seniors — would be even more confused than she was, because she works on election technology matters all the time in the Senate.

“I’m not playing a video game,” she said. “I’m trying to elect someone who will make things better. I like to go vote in person, but next time I might just go get a paper (mail-in) ballot.”

Jim Ellis, the election official at the Edgemoor polling place, said that some people were “still having trouble” with the multiple pages of governor candidates in both races. He estimated “about 70 percent” of all voters were aware of the multiple screens for the governor’s race when they entered the polls. He said voters might take longer to cast their votes because this election has so many candidates.

“Otherwise,” Ellis said, “things have run smoothly. It’s been a great turnout.”

Ellis said someone filed a complaint with the ACLU about the Edgemoor location, saying voters were walking behind each other and looking at their screens on the way out of the polling station, which made voters nervous.

“Once we were made aware of the concern, we immediately corrected it,” Ellis said.

Ellis, who has worked seven elections in Kansas, said a complaint had been made before he had a chance to fix a problem with the layout of the machines. He said they simply moved a couple machines around and the problem was solved.

Voters in Wichita hit the polls early Tuesday to cast their votes in the Kansas primary elections. In some cases, like Edgemoor at lunch time, lines stacked up. Ellis said that’s a rare occurrence at the recreation center, where 348 voters had cast their ballots by 12:30 p.m.

Crowds and lines were common at polling sites all over the city, based on social media posts.

Though the election commissioner’s office had no early numbers, “it has been a very strong turnout,” deputy election commissioner Laura Bianco said.

Some voters said they were looking for change, and others said they wanted Kansas to move back to the center of the political spectrum.

Chris Brooks, 62, registered as a Republican to temper what he sees as a party veering too far to the right. In part, he looked at candidates’ stances on legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use.

“I voted for anyone who was pro-legalization, because I always hear Kansans coming back from Colorado saying they went there and spent money on marijuana. I think that’s money that should stay in Kansas.”

Joan Ward, 80, said she votes every chance she gets. That’s why she woke up early and went to Woodland Methodist Church when it opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Ward, a registered Republican, said she votes out of a sense of duty and was not particularly excited about any of this year’s candidates. Ward said voting is important to “get who you want in there.”

“It’s something you should do,” she said.

Voters defied the early rain to form a line outside Northside Church of Christ, and they stood outside in the rain again shortly before noon because the voting area was filled.

One resident estimated there were 20 people in line in front of her at the Department of Motor Vehicles office at Douglas and Meridian.

About 165 voters had cast ballots at the Independent Living Resource Center on West Second by 10:30 a.m., with lines of people waiting their turn.

The Advanced Learning Library had logged more than 100 voters as of about 10:45 a.m., most of them after the rain had eased.

That compared to about 60 voters all day at the precinct’s previous location.

“Location, location, location,” supervising judge Adrienne Edwards said in explanation for the higher turnout.

“I thought the turnout might be a little higher here, because its library,” she said. “People would come because ‘I’ve not been here - wow!’”

The turnout has been steady since 10 a.m., Edwards said.

“That’s a great thing for us,” she said. “We’re excited.”

Lines were a challenge for some voters at Glen Park Christian Church in south Wichita because the site was two workers short.

Myrle McCullough, 83, of Wichita, said the delay makes voting for difficult because he can’t stand well for too long, though he realizes that is not the worker’s fault.

Dianna Tripoli, 58, of Wichita, said she found that the electronic voting was confusing because voters have to click on ‘more’ if there was a back page to the voting.

If voters didn’t want to write in a candidate Tripoli said, it wasn’t clear what to do in that case if someone wanted to leave a particular office blank.

“I had to ask for help on that and I think some other people might’ve been confused too because they were asking for help as well,” Tripoli said.

Polls will remain open until 7 p.m.