Elections

Software issue is confusing voters in election for Kansas governor

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman acknowledges there’s a glitch in the new voting machines that’s confusing voters, but a software patch won’t be ready in time for Tuesday’s primary.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman acknowledges there’s a glitch in the new voting machines that’s confusing voters, but a software patch won’t be ready in time for Tuesday’s primary. The Wichita Eagle

When you go to the polls to vote for governor between now and Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you don’t see every candidate that you’re expecting to see on your ballot.

They’re all there, but you may have to look a little deeper than usual to find the candidate you want to vote for.

Because of an unforeseen software design issue in Sedgwick County’s new voting machines, not all the candidates’ names appear on the first screen when the voting machine gets to the gubernatorial election.

To see all the names, you have to touch “more” at the bottom of the screen, which opens another page with the rest of the candidates.

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On this sample screen on a Sedgwick County voting machine, you’d have to click “more” to get to a page where you could vote for Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kris Kobach or Jim Barnett. Dion Lefler The Wichita Eagle

So on the first screen page that comes up when you’re voting in the governor race, you might see, for example, Gov. Jeff Colyer’s name, but not his chief rival, Kris Kobach.

Or you might see Kobach’s name but not Colyer’s.

Or you might see both, or neither.

George and Bada Robert of Wichita voted early ballots Thursday and said it was confusing to have to flip between two screen pages in the same race.

“It would be nice if everything was on one page,” said Bada Robert.

They applied for mail ballots for the Nov. 6 general election, so it will be easier to see the big picture.

“That way we can look to see who’s there and discuss who we think we want to vote for,” George Robert said.

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Vada and Gary Robert voted Thursday and said it was confusing. They signed up to get mail ballots for November. Dion Lefler The Wichita Eagle

The main reason the candidates are spread over two screen pages on the voting machine is that there are too many of them — seven Republicans and five Democrats are running for governor.

Making matters worse, state law requires each ballot line to have the candidate’s name and city of residence, plus their lieutenant governor running mate and their city of residence, said Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

With all that information to put on the screen, the machine can only handle four candidates per page, Lehman said.

Whose names you’ll see on the opening page depends on where you live.

The order of candidates on the ballot is changed at random from precinct to precinct to eliminate any advantage candidates would get from being at or near the top all the time, Lehman said.

And if you do cast your vote without looking at both screens, the machine will give you a warning: “Some of the choices in this contest have not been displayed.”

From that page you can decide whether to go back and look at the other choices or go ahead and record your vote.

Lehman acknowledged it’s not ideal, but said it’s the best she could do for this election.

The manufacturer is working on a software patch to get more names per screen in future elections, but that won’t be ready in time for Tuesday’s primary, she said.

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas
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