The contest between Republican Barb Wasinger and Democrat Eber Phelps for the 111th District seat in the Kansas House of Representatives might be in play once again.
Seven registered voters in the 111th are asking an Ellis County District Court judge to allow a South Carolina voting machines expert to take a second look at the Nov. 6 General Election data from the county’s 12-year-old voting machines.
A Notice of Contest petition on behalf of the voters was e-filed late Monday with the Ellis County District Court Clerk’s Office by 58th House District Rep. Vic Miller, Topeka, the Democrat chosen to serve the final two years of Gov.-elect Laura Kelly’s unexpired Senate term.
In his more than two decades as an election expert and attorney, Miller has been involved with about 15 such petitions, either filing them or responding to them, he said in an interview with The Hays Daily News.
“This one is unique to what I’ve filed in the past,” Miller said. Typically there’s a handful of votes and a judge scrutinizes closely the contested ballots to decide if they should be counted or not, and, if so, for which candidate, he said.
“We want to make sure there was no malfunctioning of the machines,” he said of the county’s 69 iVotronic voting machines. “We want to make sure there was nothing out of kilter … no impropriety in machine tabulation and whether the winner was properly determined.”
The county’s old iVotronic touch screen voting machines, two of which were taken out of service election day, are no longer on the list of voting machines approved for use in Kansas by the Kansas Secretary of State, he said. “These machines have been essentially outlawed, they were grandfathered in,” Miller said. “They are not on the approved list now.”
The petition “puts the wheels in motion for a court to take a look,” Miller said, noting the next step is for a judge assigned the case to set a hearing date.
The petitioners want Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus to hand over electronic data from the iVotronics for the 111th race for review by Duncan Buell, a voting machine expert from South Carolina.
Buell is part of the Election Verification Network, a national network of leaders, experts and policy makers who put their election and voting machine expertise to use to solve election problems. Buell is the NCR Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
The seven voters on the petition, all from Hays, are former state senator Janis Lee, Lyn Lee, Elizabeth Michaelis, Mike Michaelis, Kathleen Rome, Kaytee Wisley and Conner Mountford.
Phelps, who represented the 111th District for 18 years, lost his seat in the General Election by a scant 35 votes to Wasinger.
A Nov. 20 recount that confirmed he lost did not alleviate his concerns about the county’s voting machines. Former Ellis County Democratic Party Chairman John Bird argued Nov. 20 to the Ellis County Canvassing Board that the county’s machines were not properly calibrated prior to or after the election, and that some malfunctioned, throwing doubt on the results.
Bird has referenced several times a 2007 Project Everest voting study for Ohio that examined electronic voting machines for security vulnerabilities. That analysis found an abundance of technical weaknesses, structural flaws and security failures, which led the researchers to conclude that iVotronic and some other electronic voting machines in use lack basic technical protections needed to guarantee a trustworthy election, their summary said.
The iVotronic, a product of Election Systems & Software, Omaha, Neb., has been abandoned in some states where, for example, they’ve been observed flipping votes from one candidate to another.
Maskus, the county’s chief election officer, has defended the Nov. 5 General Election and recount process, but has said the county’s machines are old and need replaced.