Yesterday I attended the Ellis County Commission meeting. I attended because the Clerk was proposing a reaffirmation that, as a county, we not allow stickers to be used on ballots. As a write in candidate, this is an issue that weighs heavily.
Early in my campaign, we asked about stickers. The process is simple, for those requesting them, my campaign would provide an appropriately sized sticker with my name, which a voter would then transfer to a ballot. Voters have questioned if their vote counts if my name was spelled incorrectly. It’s a valid concern, evidenced when observers were allowed for counting, there were questions voiced about counting the name "Glenn" if the name was spelled with one "n" instead of 2, or if "Bittle" should be counted if there was only one "t".
I verified with the Clerk the reason we could not use stickers was a limitation of the equipment the county purchased, to which she answered yes. I then asked, since stickers could not be used, if my campaign would be allowed to, at my expense, place a pre-inked stamp in each booth, allowing voters to use the stamp. Again the answer was no. The Clerk explained that the "girls" used to use a stamp to sign ballots, but the ink is also not compatible with the new equipment, so they now have to sign with pen. She then said that we aren’t even supposed to use pencil because the lead can mess with the machines, as well.
I pointed out there is equipment that allows stickers to be counted. The Clerk said she was unaware of said equipment. She may be right, it may not exist.
Even if it doesn’t, my question, and all of our concern, should be, "Why did we spend so much money on equipment that does not work in favor of the voter"? Many Kansas counties allow stickers to be used. Even if they have to be hand counted. Officials
in those counties clearly believe, as do I, that voting is about the voter, not the officials. It isn’t about what is easiest or less time intensive, it’s about making sure our voters are given every opportunity to exercise their precious right to vote with ease. Even if it takes some extra time to count those ballots, isn’t it the duty of our officials to err on the side of the voter? My answer is a resounding yes.
Write in candidates are an important element in the general election process, and, in Ellis County have a rich and meaningful history. Don Bickle, Rich Schmidt, Ted Phelps and others began their journeys of representation with write in campaigns. Their legacies are certainly not marred by that fact, instead they are bolstered by the spirit of standing up for what you believe in, even when the odds are stacked against you. It is the duty of our election officials to encourage that spirit, in a non partisan manner, regardless of the outcome they prefer.