Outgoing 111th District Rep. Eber Phelps said in a statement Wednesday he won’t pursue a second recount of the Nov. 6 General Election, despite his lack of confidence in the accuracy of the vote.
Phelps, a Democrat who represented the district for 18 years, lost his seat in the Kansas House of Representatives by a scant 35 votes to the Republican candidate, Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger.
A Nov. 20 recount that confirmed he lost did not alleviate his concerns about the county’s 12-year-old voting machines. Hays attorney John Bird, who Nov. 15 requested the hand recount on behalf of Phelps, argued that the county’s 69 voting machines are not certified for use in any other state and were not properly calibrated prior to the election.
Bird also disputed the validity of the recount on the basis of there being no print-out of the electronic ballots, which he said are required when a candidate asks for a hand recount. Instead the recount was based on data reports from each machine, by ward and precinct.
County Clerk Donna Maskus, the county’s chief election officer, has defended the election and recount process.
Below is the statement Phelps emailed to The Hays Daily News:
The result of the recent election for the 111th district state representative is another example of the old adage that every vote counts. With a mere 35 votes separating me and my opponent it is clear the adage still holds true. It is essential that everyone from the candidate to the electorate should feel confident that an election was accurately conducted without question. In the case of the 2018 local house race that has not been the case due to the use of questionable and outdated voting machines.
It seems incongruous for votes cast on paper ballots to have voted convincingly for me; votes on the two machines at the Clerk’s office to have voted more than 50% for me; voters at most of the precincts who voted via machine to vote for me; yet in two of the precincts where I had won the paper and early votes, my opponent recorded enough votes on machines that appear not to have been calibrated and which malfunctioned during election day to make up a deficit of nearly 200 votes and finish 35 votes ahead.
Thus, a lengthy effort was implemented to insure that all votes could be verified. In the days and weeks since the canvassing of votes a number of supporters indicated they were planning to contest the election results because they were not confident that the machine vote count was accurate.
Today I have called several individuals and asked that they not contest the results, even though many questions still remain. Those questions center on the use of electronic voting machines. The voting machines used in Ellis County are beset by many problems due to length of time in service and the difficulty in verifying a ballot which is why I have always opted and will continue to request a paper ballot. I continue to receive reports that people thought they were voting for me but the machines instead showed a vote for my opponent. It does appear that the machines in Ellis County are outmoded, not allowed to be purchased in Kansas anymore, and have been poorly maintained for many years.
I would’ve preferred to follow the wishes of my supporters and contested the results but the difficulty in obtaining information from the county clerk in a timely manner thwarted that effort. With the start of the session nearing I felt it more important to have representation in Topeka in place at the start of the session. I will continue the quest for accurate elections with a request to the county to simply do away with the voting machines and go back to the reliable and accountable paper ballot. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars purchasing a new system when we have a reliable way to conduct honest and accurate elections.
To those who participated in my campaign in one way or another and cast a vote in my favor not only this past November but in years past, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation. Your support has been humbling and I will be forever grateful for your confidence. My interest in state government will remain with me and I will continue to be a voice for Ellis County and western Kansas.