Digital Communities

Voting Software Makes Some Candidates Harder to Find in Sedgwick County, Kan.

New, glitch-filled voting machines in Sedgwick County, Kan., come just in time for the polls opening next week.

by Dion Lefler, The Wichita Eagle / August 3, 2018
(TNS/Genaro Molina)

(TNS) — When Kansans go to the polls to vote for governor between now and Tuesday, they shouldn't be surprised if they don’t see every candidate they’re expecting to see on the ballot.

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

Because of an unforeseen software glitch 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, voters have to touch “more” at the bottom of the screen, which opens another page with the rest of the candidates.

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

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

Or they 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.

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 one sees on the opening page depends on where they 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 one does cast their vote without looking at both screens, the machine will give them a warning: “Some of the choices in this contest have not been displayed.”

From that page one can decide whether to go back and look at the other choices or go ahead and record their 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.

©2018 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.