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Election mix-up

Published on -8/30/2012, 9:55 AM

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The Aug. 7 Kansas primary was notable for a couple of reasons.

Most people are aware of the first, so we needn't spend much time rehashing the bashing moderate Republicans received at the hands of their conservative counterparts. Kansans will feel the effect of those results for years to come.

The second newsworthy item from the election kind of flew under the radar. Or at least for those of us outside Shawnee County.

It turns out at one particular polling place, the Light of the World Christian Center in Topeka, election workers apparently were in the dark. Incorrect ballots were given to a number of voters, creating doubt about who actually won the GOP contest for the 52nd District in the Kansas House of Representatives. The tally at the end of the day had Shanti Gandhi leading Dick Jones by 41 votes.

Since the polling place also had ballots for the 56th District and not everybody received the right one, election officials were unsure whether Gandhi had won.

Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter wasn't exactly sure what to do but knew a winner needed to be declared. So she called for a special election, limited to the 432 people who voted at Light of the World on Primary Day. This week, 243 of those voters came back to recast ballots. Final results still had Gandhi in the lead, either by 46 votes if one included the special election or 45 votes if not.

Since the outcome didn't change, no legal challenges are planned. Shawnee County Counselor Rich Eckert said he's hoping the State Board of Canvassers could tell him if the special election was the proper route to take.

We want to know why no directives came from the Secretary of State's Office. Surely the person responsible for all statewide elections, Secretary Kris Kobach, could have given guidance before Shawnee County went to the expense of a second election?

His work apparently was done for this election cycle. In addition to working on campaigns for some of the conservative Republicans in targeted races, Kobach already had ensured campaign workers were trained to combat non-existent voter fraud. He pushed through the nation's toughest voter-ID law in order to "protect the integrity of our elections."

Of course, the integrity he was talking about was related to 75 cases of suspected voter fraud reported since 1998. Zero convictions, but Kobach believed even one suspicious vote was indicative of rampant fraud.

His lack of comment, or even interest, in hundreds of incorrect ballots being distributed during a single election should indicate where his priorities lie. Either that or he's simply been too busy working with the Mitt Romney campaign and the National Republican Party on immigration issues.

We only can hope Secretary Kobach at some point will pay closer attention to the actual job he was elected to perform.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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