GIRARD — “Human error” led to inaccurate election results being published by the Crawford County Clerk’s office Tuesday night, commissioners were told Friday
Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle said results from five of the county’s 16 polling locations were counted twice, doubling votes for each candidate and resulting in inaccurate results. He said the mistake was due to human error, not mechanical.
“The polling places make data cards that we insert into software that counts the votes,” he said. “The person inputting the data got interrupted and put five of them in twice.”
Pyle said they discovered the mistake during a routine precinct-by-precinct audit and that it became apparent there was a problem.
“Some precincts were reporting a turnout of 110 percent,” he said.
Pyle said the county does not implement dual control when counting ballots. He cited understaffing and a polling place quirk for the delay in catching the mistake.
“Part of the reason the software didn’t catch it is that one precinct is split between two polling stations, so it doesn’t register as redundant,” he said.
While the doubled votes did not affect the reported outcomes of state races, it did affect the results of the Crawford County Commissioner race in the 3rd district. The incorrect results showed Republican Chad Ulepich defeating Democrat Jeremy Johnson for the seat, 2,310 votes to 2,227 votes.
The updated unofficial results, re-tabulated by a bipartisan board and including data from advanced ballots that had not been reported in the original results, showed the race tied: 1,586 votes to 1,586 votes. Pyle said the results of the five miscounted precincts were exactly half the initially reported results.
Ulepich, owner of Classic Threadz Inc. in Pittsburg, was in attendance at the commission meeting.
“I’m just sitting back and waiting to see what happens,” he said.
During the meeting, Pyle, who is a Democrat, said there are still 330 provisional ballots that are waiting to be processed. He said he expected about 75 percent of those to be valid and counted, the outcome of which will likely decide the winner of the race.
If the votes are still tied once all votes have been counted and the canvas is complete, then Kansas State Law requires the winner be decided by coin flip.
According to the commission, canvassing of the ballots is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
After a 30 minute executive session during Friday’s meeting, the commission approved a motion to hire an attorney who specializes in elections to oversee Tuesday’s canvassing. They will also request a representative from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office be in attendance.
“We just want people to know what’s going on,” Pyle said, “and that we’re going to make it right.”