A hand count of a sampling of ballots from the Nov. 5 election turned up just one vote difference and therefore didn't change any election results, according to Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus, the county’s chief election officer.
For the first time this year, Kansas required that every county audit its election results with a hand count of paper ballots of at least one contested race in 1% of randomly selected voting districts.
Maskus selected the race for Hays city commissioner, where there were five candidates competing for three seats, and the USD 489 Board of Education, where there were nine candidates for four seats.
Ballots came from the 3rd Ward 4th Precinct, which had close to 600 ballots cast in the city and county election at the Smoky Hill Country Club polling site in Hays. Those included machine votes from the poll site, mailed-in ballots and all advance ballots.
“The audit went well,” Maskus said. “There was only the one vote and that was an additional vote ... I’m very pleased with it.”
The additional vote was in the race for Hays city commissioner.
The added vote bumped up the final tally for commission newcomer Michael K. Berges.
With 1,814 votes, Berges placed second after first-place Mason R. Ruder, also a newcomer, who had 1,854 votes. They won four-year terms over third-place incumbent Ron Mellick, who got 1,757 votes, giving him the two-year term.
The change in the vote came from the poll site, Maskus said.
“It would probably be the machine,” she said, indicating a voter may not have fully filled in the bubble on the paper ballot with the black ink pen.
Maskus had said before the election that voters should be sure to fully blacken the bubble for the scanner machine to read the mark.
While the machine might not be able to read the ballot, people doing the hand count can.
“The audit board looks at what was the intent of the voter,” Maskus said. “It could have been that the marking was light shaded and not picked up by the machine.”
For the election, voters filled out paper ballots behind a privacy screen, then fed their ballot into a digital scanner, the DS200 from Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. The DS200 tabulates every vote and automatically tallies the totals for each race and each question on the ballot.
The ES&S equipment replaced iVotronic voting machines in Ellis County, more than a decade old, for which voters cast their ballot on an electronic touch screen.
There were many undervotes in the various races, which Maskus said occurs when a voter doesn’t take every opportunity to cast their vote in each race on the ballot.
In the race for Hays City Commission, for example, voters could cast a vote for up to three candidates. But 1,805 voters cast votes for fewer than three positions.
The audit was Nov. 8 by a three-member panel selected by Maskus. The Ellis County Commission canvassed the vote on Thursday, making the election results official.
Voter turnout was 26.34% of the 17,886 residents registered to vote, which Maskus characterized on election night as a very good turnout.