TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Independents vying for candidacy in this year’s General election are pushing back at top Kansas election officials.

The State Objections Board, comprised of the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, met Friday afternoon to determine the validity of the Kansas Independent Nomination Petition for the United States Senate, submitted by Mr. Gerry Coleman (Overland Park). The Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, who are both participating in this year’s gubernatorial election, sent representatives on their behalf.

Coleman, who was not present at the meeting, sent a statement objecting to the Board’s initial rejection of his 5,001 signatures to get on the ballot. According to the “Objector Argument” in a letter from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, Coleman claims that “state law provides for an electronic signature to be used when a physical signature cannot be provided,” citing K.S.A 16-1607.

In his statement, Coleman said that there was no consideration for diseases, like coronavirus, Monkeypox, or “any other illness that may spread,” when determining the petition’s validity.

State law requires at least 5,000 signatures from registered voters for an Independent candidate to get on the ballot.

However, according to the Secretary of State’s argument, more than two of the signatures on the petition do not belong to registered voters, which means Coleman’s list does not meet the 5,000 requirements. The office also argued that more than two listed addresses do not exist, listing other errors.

In addition, more than two of the listed addresses do not appear to exist, and many dates on the petition are in the future and appear to be created by an Excel program.

Pursuant to K.S.A. 25-3604, a comparison between the petition signature and registration signature must be included— mandating that the signatures must be handwritten. Further, per K.S.A. 16-1607(a), these are not electronic signatures as they are not a distinct act of the person. Lastly, the entry on each sheet to confirm that the voter personally signed the petition is not on every page of the petition (K.S.A. 25-3602(b)(3)).

Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State

Secretary of State Scott Schwab said Coleman can challenge the decision in a district court, if he chooses, “but he’s got to show up.”

The Secretary of State’s Office is also taking heat from another Independent candidate. State Senator Dennis Pyle, who switched over from the Republican party earlier this year, collected nearly 8,894 signatures to secure a slot in the race for governor.

Pyle expressed concerns over the Secretary of State’s “delay” in getting the signatures certified on Thursday. The state senator noted that it took the Secretary of State’s Office 11 days to certify former independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman’s signatures in 2018. However, Pyle’s signatures are still under review, after filing on Aug. 1.

In an interview following the State Objections Board meeting Friday, Schwab responded to criticism over the supposed “delay.” Prior, he said clerks are taking on an “incredible amount of work,” as they also deal with recounts.

“Well, I don’t check the petition the counties do, and you don’t have to turn too many channels to realize our county clerks are going through a lot right now,” Schwab said.

According to a press release from the Senator’s campaign on Thursday, Pyle received an email from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Clay Barker. In the email, Barker explained that there are “two different types” of nominating petitions. The press release states that the following is an email from Clay Barker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, General Counsel.

There are two different types of nominating petitions: 

1. Candidates seeking to have their name placed on a political party’s primary election ballot to be nominated as the party’s candidate in the general election, and 

2. Candidates seeking to have their name placed on the general election ballot as an independent candidate. Senator Pyle has opted for this approach. 

Chapter 25, Article 2, governs party candidate nominating petitions. KSA 25-208a(a) specifies that “Within 10 days, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays not included, from the date of the filing of nomination petitions . . ., the secretary of state shall determine the validity of such petitions or declaration.” That provision does not apply to Sen Pyle’s petition. 

Chapter 25, Article 3, specifically KSA 25-303 and -305, governs independent candidate nominating petitions like Sen Pyle’s petition. Those statutes do not prescribe a time period in which the Secretary of State must determine the validity of the petition. This makes pragmatic sense since the deadline for submitting the petition is the day before the primary election, and county election offices will spend the two to three weeks following the primary election on audits, county canvasses, and recounts before they can turn their staff resources to petition signature verification. Unlike in 2018 when the Orman/Doll petition was submitted, in 2022 there are post-election audits in every county, close election audits in every county for the GOP Treasurer race, and 24 counties conducting hand recounts. 

It remains our goal to make a determination on the petition’s validity before the State Canvass, which must be held on or before September 1.  

If you have any other questions please let us know. 

Clay 

Clay Barker 
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State 
General Counsel

Pyle for Kansas Campaign

In the release, Pyle accused the Office of “making excuses.”

“They are making excuses. Clearly, the Secretary of State is acting in liberal, loyal party fashion to delay, if not prevent, the certification,” Pyle said. “It appears they are running a quasi-organized operation on behalf of those who object to a real, freedom-loving Christian, Dennis Pyle, candidacy. It isn’t that difficult to check the list, this isn’t rocket science, after all, they did it in only 10 days in 2018. We are witnessing big brother exercising bully-style tactics.”