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Johnson County election officials shed light on what caused huge delay in results

OLATHE, Kan. -- Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, but in Johnson County, election officials had a long night ahead. It would be more than 12 hours until results were released.

“It was a matter of how to get results from the master USB to upload into the reporting software,” said Ronnie Metsker, Johnson County election commissioner.

When it was time to count the votes Tuesday night, that issue with the system caused a major delay.

“The reporting software is what receives that compiled data and then puts it out in a format we can present it to the public, and that’s where we experienced the choke point. The data was not uploading in a timely fashion. It should be done in very short order, just a few seconds, and it was taking a long time,” Metsker explained.

The numbers were finally released just before 8 a.m. Wednesday morning with Kris Kobach holding a narrow lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the race for the Republican nomination for Kansas governor.

Just 191 votes separate the two candidates.

“The next leg of the journey begins another section, which is leading up to and including the canvas. The canvas is where all of those provisional ballots are considered,” Metsker said.

Aside from these behind the scenes issues, voters also said they experienced a lot of confusion at the polls. Most either stemmed from issues with the machines or instructions from poll workers.

“What she had told me was that you had to print the card in order to review your selections, and then when I was standing there, I heard another election worker tell another individual that you can do it on the screen or on the card. And then someone else said that you had to do it on the screen otherwise there would be an issue, so that raised a red flag,” Johnson County voter Kyle Kneale said.

Kneale said, in some cases, he noticed others leave because they thought their votes were cast, but their machine was still stuck on the review screen.

“I’m pretty confident that my own ballot was counted or cast and counted correctly just because I am very thorough in the way that I go about things," he said. "But if you didn’t take the time to physically stand there and review and actually double check that you have absolutely submitted your ballot, it wouldn’t surprise me that if there were issues in uncast ballots."

He hopes the results are accurate considering all of the issues with the voting process.

“It’s discouraging that we have so many tight races and there were so many issues. It throws into doubt what would have actually happened had this gone according to plan,” Kneale said.

Meanwhile, election officials are confident this will all be resolved by the next election in November.

“Of course, we're disappointed. I know many campaigns, candidates, and even the voters are disappointed that it took so long. So we apologize on behalf of all of the players, all of the stakeholders in the process that it took so long. But we will get it corrected, and it will turn out well in the end,” Metsker said.

The vendor of Johnson County’s new machine,s Election Systems & Software, which is based out of Omaha, issued the following statement regarding the Kansas Primary Election:

“The secure tabulated results for the Johnson County August 7 Primary Election were physically transported to the Election office in a timely manner at the close of polls. The delay in reporting results was due to slow processing of the election media on encrypted thumb drives. Despite slower than normal processing, the reporting is now complete, and the accuracy of the results was never in question. Johnson County followed proper procedures in conducting their election. ES&S takes accountability for and apologizes for the slower than normal upload of results. The ES&S development team is working around the clock, performing a forensic analysis, to identify the root cause of the slow results reporting. ES&S is committed to expeditiously providing a solution.”