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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Preliminary plans for special election in place

  •      After a brief hearing yesterday, the Ford County Objections Board unanimously approved a preliminary plan to hold a special election that will serve as a new election day for voters in Dodge Township 115 and decide the outcome of the County Commission District 2 race between Chris Boys and Michael Burkhart.


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  • After a brief hearing yesterday, the Ford County Objections Board unanimously approved a preliminary plan to hold a special election that will serve as a new election day for voters in Dodge Township 115 and decide the outcome of the County Commission District 2 race between Chris Boys and Michael Burkhart.
    According to official results canvassed and posted by Ford County Election Officer Sharon Siebel, Boys lost the election to Burkhart, by 2 votes: 354 for Boys and 356 for Burkhart.
    A coding error resulted in some voters from Dodge Township District 115 receiving electronic ballots coded for Township District 3. The error was reported around noon and the election officer made attempts to remedy the problem.
    Although election officials are relatively confident that all votes were properly cast once the problem was resolved, there is concern by some that the voters from that district who voted before the problem was found did not get to vote in the county commissioner election.
    It was determined Aug. 7 upon the close of voting that 41 voters had cast ballots for Dodge Township 115. Siebel said 18 of those voters got a correct ballot, although those voters cannot be identified for privacy purposes.
    A preliminary plan for the election sets the date for Sept. 4. Only the 41 voters who voted on election day and reside in Dodge Township 115 will be allowed to vote. Siebel said eligible voters have been identified by their signatures in the poll book. Every eligible voter will be given the opportunity to re-cast their ballot, even if their initial ballot cast was correct.
    Siebel said each affected voter will receive a letter of explanation and notification that their original ballot will be considered null. The letters will be registered USPS Certified Mail Return Receipt to guarantee notification.
    “We want to give everyone the opportunity to vote correctly,” she said.
    Board member Terry Malone said he favored the process of inclusion over exclusion in regard to the possibility of a special election.
    “There were 18 voters who received the correct ballot that may not get to vote again, but we must acknowledge the other 23 voters as well,” he said.
    Malone recognized the opportunity to vote as the most important right in a democracy and said if the board could correct the problem they should.
    The meeting marks the first time the Objections Board has met in its 15 year history and stems from the filing of two objections, one by District 2 candidate Chris Boys and the other by Dodge City resident Bob Wetmore. The board was made up of Ford County Attorney Terry Malone, Ford County Clerk and Election Officer Sharon Siebel and Ford County Treasurer Debra Pennington.
    Boys' objection was filed pursuant to KSA 25-308 and KSA 25-1436 which specify allowable causes for objection. Boys read aloud a section of the statute as the basis for his objection.
    Page 2 of 2 -  “Some voters were deprived of the right of voting for a candidate or on a question submitted, when such voters had the right under the election laws of this state to vote thereon, and such deprival could change the result of the election,” he said.
    Boys shared the comments of several voters he said contacted him about ballot problems. Their comments included the critique that the election was not fair and they weren't given a choice in voting. Boys also said he knew of voters who received the wrong ballot as late as 7 p.m., an account contrary to reports from Seibel that the problem was fixed by early afternoon.
    “I can ensure there were mistakes in the polling process,” he said. “This was a full day deal.”
    Boys also said his objection was not about the outcome of the election or trying to get a leg up in a close race but rather for the people of Ford County.
    “I want the board to make steps to correct this for the future,” he said.
    Wetmore said his motivation for filing an objection was not based on the competing candidates, but was about the process. He said he wanted to make sure everyone had the right to vote and urged the board to work with state legislators because the current legislation doesn't accommodate changes made in recent years. Wetmore also said Siebel did everything perfectly on her end and the error was the fault of a database problem.
    “The issue is that voters were not given the opportunity to vote,” he said. “The election isn't over.”
    Mike Burkhart, Boys' opponent for the post of District 2 Commissioner , who certifiably won the primary had different hopes for the outcome of the meeting. He urged the board to reject the objections and referenced a conversation with Siebel where she told him she had no intention of allowing people to re-vote.
    “A cast vote is a final vote,” he said.
    Burkhart told the board that even though a majority of his family, friends and neighbors live in the affected district, he would not object the election if the roles were reversed.
    According to Sieble's preliminary plan, voting in the special election will take place at the County Clerk's office on the 4th floor of the Ford County Government Center. Paper ballots printed in the clerk's office will be used and hand counted. Advance voting will be available both in the office and by mail.
    "I'm glad the board looked at this," Boys said following the hearing. "They were fair and honest about the process."
    Burkhart said "We're going to go onward and upward and work to maintain our win in the election. We think we're going to win through this process."

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