Editorials

Allow audit of voting machines

It’s hard to see the harm in letting a Wichita statistician check the accuracy of Sedgwick County’s voting machines.
It’s hard to see the harm in letting a Wichita statistician check the accuracy of Sedgwick County’s voting machines.

If Kansas elections are as secure and fair as Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends, it’s hard to see the harm in letting a Wichita statistician check the accuracy of Sedgwick County’s voting machines.

Yet Beth Clarkson, whose day job is as chief statistician at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, has had to pursue an open-records lawsuit to get the data needed to audit the 2014 election results.

It’s her second such suit, after a court ruled in 2013 that the paper trail she sought to examine was not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act.

Clarkson wrote about her election project last month in an article for StatsLife, published by the American Statistical Association and the Royal Statistical Society, saying that “statistical analysis shows patterns indicative of vote manipulation in machines” in Sedgwick County.

Clarkson also wrote that “the voting machine software used is proprietary and even the election officials are not allowed to inspect it.”

That hardly inspires confidence. Neither does the puzzling resistance she has encountered in seeking to do an audit.

She concluded: “The only way to prove vote fraud is through a post-election audit demonstrating significant deviations from the reported totals. That is what I want to see done.”

It is to Sedgwick County’s credit that its machines even create a paper trail. That’s not true in many other places that use such machines, which have been associated with voting irregularities around the country.

The paper records don’t identify voters, so privacy should not be an issue. As Clarkson’s suit argues, nothing in the logs she wants to look at would compromise the integrity of election administration.

In April Kobach told The Eagle that the window to do such analysis had closed in November, and that the records were now sealed by law. But Clarkson has said that the request she made during the period when election results could be contested had been rebuffed by the Sedgwick County Election Office.

Bizarrely, Clarkson’s lawsuit was slowed more recently by the failure of Kobach and county election officials to respond within the legally required 30 days to her summonses, which she initially sent by mail. She told The Eagle editorial board Tuesday that new summonses were delivered last week. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that she was seeking legal help with the case.

According to the Verified Voting Foundation, Kansas is not among the half of states that require an audit after each election. Why not? That sounds like a worthy issue for future legislative sessions.

Kobach said in April that he’d like every county in Kansas to have a paper trail like those available in Sedgwick County. But surely the point of keeping a record is its availability for later examination.

What better way to help confirm what Kobach is always saying, that on his five-year watch Kansas has made it “easy to vote but hard to cheat”?

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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