A Sedgwick County judge has ruled that a Wichita State University statistician won’t get access to paper tapes from voting machines to search for fraud or mistakes. Judge Tim Lahey denied a motion by Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman to dismiss the case brought by statistician Beth Clarkson. But that was a hollow victory for Clarkson. Her point in filing the lawsuit was to gain access to the tapes to check the accuracy of the voting machines, searching for an answer to statistical anomalies she has found in election results. The paper tapes at issue are printed by the voting machines as each voter casts a ballot. The voter can view the tape through a plastic window in the machine to verify their choices before hitting a button that records their votes. Clarkson sued last year seeking access to the tapes under the Kansas Open Records Act. Representing herself without a lawyer, she lost.
Since then, Randy Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney, has taken up the case. He said Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, lost the open-records case because she is “a brilliant statistician” but “a horrible lawyer.”
He changed strategy and sought a recount of votes, on the assumption that Clarkson would be able to watch the process and get the information she wants.
Lahey ruled that Clarkson had already brought the issue of access to the tapes to court and lost, so he couldn’t order Lehman to turn them over now. The law prohibits fighting the same legal issue twice.