Winfield Democrat wins House race after provisional count

With a boost from Monday’s count of provisional ballots from two south-central Kansas counties, Winfield Democrat Ed Trimmer is headed back to the Legislature.

In the state’s tightest legislative race, Trimmer trailed Republican Larry Alley by six votes in the 79th House District after totals were in on Election Day last week.

But Trimmer picked up 23 more votes from provisional ballots than Alley did, so he won by 17 votes.

“It’s good to have it over with,” Trimmer said.

Counting the provisional ballots took place Monday, when Cowley and Sumner counties conducted their canvassing. The 79th District includes both counties.

Under Kansas law, a candidate in a state race who loses by less than half of 1 percent can request a recount and not have to pay for the process. Trimmer won by a little more than a quarter of 1 percent (3,341 votes to 3,324).

Alley, who also is from Winfield, said he hadn’t decided whether to ask for recount.

“I’m confident in the counties’ ability in counting (the provisional ballots),” he said. “I watched them. They did a great job.

“I think we ran a positive race, a tough race. You can only have one winner.”

Since the voting involves two counties, Alley would have to request the recount from the Secretary of State’s office.

Normally that request must be done by 5 p.m. of the day after canvassing. But since state offices are closed Tuesday for Veterans Day, Alley would have until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Barring a change through recount, Trimmer is headed for his sixth full term in the Legislature. He was appointed to fill out the 2006 term.

Provisional ballots are those cast by voters whose registration is in doubt for reasons such as not providing a photo ID at the poll, not providing proof of citizenship when registering, showing up to vote in person after requesting an advance ballot, voting at the wrong polling place or moving without re-registering to vote.

The provisional ballots are sealed and the concern is written on the outside of the envelope. The ballots are then set aside until a county election board can review the sealed ballots and decide which ones should be counted.

This is the second straight election that the outcome for Trimmer rode on the provisional count. In 2012, he led by 14 votes after Election Day and added 41 more votes from provisional ballots.

This time, he had to come from behind.

Trimmer added 48 votes from provisional ballots in Cowley, giving him a total of 2,616 from the county. Alley added 27 from Cowley, bringing his total to 2,189 in the county.

In Sumner, Trimmer picked up 11 votes from provisional ballots and Alley added nine. Trimmer finished with 725 votes in the county to Alley’s 1,135.

A close House race in Wichita is awaiting Sedgwick County counting its provisional ballots during canvassing Thursday morning.

In the 88th House District, which includes parts of southeast Wichita, Republican challenger Joseph Scapa had 48 more votes after Election Day than Democrat incumbent Patricia Sloop.

About 300 provisional ballots were cast in polling places that serve the 88th, according to Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman. Not all of those ballots will include the 88th race, though, she added.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.