Politics & Government

WSU mathematician seeking to audit election results isn’t optimistic

People vote on machines at the Linwood Recreation Center. 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.
People vote on machines at the Linwood Recreation Center. 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. File photo

A Wichita State University mathematician suing Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman isn’t optimistic that she’ll win her case.

Beth Clarkson, a WSU mathematician, says she has identified anomalies with election results in Sedgwick County in the 2014 election and wants an opportunity to perform an audit. To that end, she is suing the county and the state’s top election officers.

Clarkson, who filed an unsuccessful suit in 2013, told supporters in an Aug. 19 newsletter that she was not optimistic about her chances of winning in court this time.

“I have spoken with several lawyers, who nearly unanimously concur that I will lose. Those who aren’t so definitive don’t seem particularly optimistic. So far, I’ve been of the opinion that I can lose just as easily all by myself, so I’m still acting as my own attorney,” Clarkson wrote in the newsletter, which was forwarded to The Eagle.

Kobach said in an interview with The Eagle earlier this month that two statutes prevent the county from releasing the ballots to Clarkson for an audit.

“It’s a felony to disclose or expose the contents of any ballot … and that’s even if the voters’ names are redacted,” Kobach said.

He said another statute forbids county election officers from “unsealing the containers in which ballots are kept” except under a judicial order.

Judges have the power to order ballots unsealed if an election is contested, but the period to contest the 2014 results has passed, he said.

“The judge can do this, but Kansas law specifically says outside of those circumstances you can’t do this,” Kobach said.

Despite her pessimism about her suit’s chances, Clarkson said she remains committed to pursuing the audit.

“I feel that in a democracy like the U.S., someone like me ought to be able to legally get access to our voting records, determine the accuracy of the official reported results and make those findings public. If not, that lack of transparency is another red flag that our votes are NOT being counted accurately,” she said.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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