More than $370,000 worth of electronic equipment won’t be used in local city and school elections early next year if the vendor doesn’t correct problems with the software, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said. There have been ongoing problems with the county’s 130 electronic poll books that were first used earlier this year, she said. “The vendor will have to fix that before we use them again,” she said. “The books have made it far more cumbersome for us. For the election administrators, they’re just a nightmare.”
Other counties have also expressed frustration with the electronic poll books, according to a survey conducted after the August primary by the Kansas secretary of state’s office.
The poll book problems aren’t directly related to the long delay Lehman’s office experienced in last week’s general election. Final results weren’t put on the county’s website until almost 2 a.m. Wednesday because of a series of user errors involving the equipment, including voting machines at two polling sites, and in loading the results at the election office.
Some of those problems appeared to mirror difficulties that led to delayed results during the primary.
As part of an investigation into those delays by Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office, state election director Brad Bryant and the vendor will meet with Lehman at her office this week.
The issues with the electronic poll books won’t be part of that discussion, Lehman said.
“But we will talk with the vendor about it later,” she added.
While the books aren’t directly connected to the delay woes, Lehman said the staff spends a lot of time keeping them updated – time that could better be spent on staff training. She has said more training will help avoid some of the problems experienced on Election Day.
Sedgwick County purchased the electronic poll books through the secretary of state’s office in 2010, about a year before Kobach appointed Lehman as election commissioner. The books and accessories, such as the scanners and signature pads, cost $371,150. The county had to pay 10 percent, or $37,115, with the rest paid by the state from funds received in a federal grant.
ES&S is the county’s vendor for the poll books, the same vendor that has provided the rest of its election equipment.