Ellis County District Court Judge Blake A. Bittel on Wednesday afternoon made his first decisions in the election contest case over who won the 111th District seat for the Kansas House of Representatives.
At a conference call hearing Wednesday afternoon at the Ellis County Courthouse with attorneys for the opposing sides, Bittel set 9 a.m. Dec. 31 for the trial.
At that time he’ll hear arguments on whether the Nov. 6 General Election was conducted according to Kansas election statutes. He can either rule immediately on the evidence presented, or take it under advisement and deliver his ruling later.
Joshua A. Ney, Oskaloosa, the county attorney for Jefferson County, is representing Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger.
Wasinger, who ran for the 111th on the Republican ticket, is fighting to keep her 35-vote win over 111th District Rep. Eber Phelps. Registered voters supporting Phelps are represented by Wichita attorney Casey Yingling, Wichita.
Bittel also set 10 a.m. Dec. 27 for a conference call hearing on an evidence question raised by Ney on Wednesday.
Ney noted his concern about ballots and other election evidence that might be presented at the trial. While he said he wasn’t accusing anyone of anything, he said he is concerned that evidence obtained as part of a Nov. 20 recount has been in the hands of various individuals, making the chain of custody questionable and with no assurance the evidence hasn’t been tampered with.
“If we get to trial and we’ve got multiple versions of this information, it’s going to be a mess,” Ney said.
The registered voters supporting Phelps on Dec. 10 filed a Notice of Election Contest in Ellis County District Court. They are asking the District Court for another look at the Nov. 6 General Election results. They say, among other things, the county’s 12-year-old voting machines are insecure and unreliable.
The Kansas House is adjourned until Monday, Jan. 14.