Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson says Sedgwick County’s new voting machines leave less room for vote tampering than the old ones did, but still aren’t perfect. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Clarkson, who has a doctorate in statistics and works as chief statistician at WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research. “If we would audit (the machines), that would be another step in the right direction.” On the plus side, she said, the new machines do print paper ballots with the voters’ choices printed on them. That allows voters to review their ballots and verify their selections before they feed the cards into a separate counting machine. It also will make it possible to do a hand recount in future races if problems are suspected with the machine counts, she said. On the downside, Clarkson said, the votes are still counted by computerized machinery, which creates the possibility of hacking or tampering with the software to change the outcome. Clarkson is a leading skeptic of the vote counting in recent south-central Kansas elections, citing what she says have been statistical anomalies between precincts and conflicts with the results of exit polling she oversaw last year.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said she’s confident the new system will render the correct results. She said having voters feed their own ballots to the counting machines at the polling sites will be faster and more secure than having them put the uncounted ballots in boxes and transporting them back to the election office for counting.
Lehman also said election workers will run several checks to ensure that the number of ballots cast matches the results from the machines and the number of voters who check in at polling places.
The Kansas House has unanimously approved a bill requiring that all voting machines in the state produce a paper record of each vote cast. House Bill 2333 would also mandate spot-check audits, comparing a random sampling of machine tallies to paper ballots after each election, before canvassers certify the results.