TOPEKA, Kan. — After a private citizen paid nearly $120,000 to recount the abortion amendment vote in Kansas, county election officials are busy going through thousands of ballots cast in this year’s primary.
In the state’s capital city, Shawnee County election workers are hand-counting more than 60,000 ballots.
County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell spoke with FOX4’s Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday about how they’re handling the load.
“There are just under 50,000 that they’re doing from election day here, and there’s approximately 15,000 that they’re doing on the other side of the office that were the early walk in votes,” Howell said.
According to Howell, election workers in Shawnee County are going through 95 election day boxes. Each of those ballot boxes are still sealed from Election Day. As they go through each box, they’re sorting out anywhere from 2-6 precincts in each polling place box.
Howell said the group of sorters are spending time “organizing,” so it makes it easier to count the “yes” and “no” votes by precinct.
“The teams are actually marking exactly how many yes’s and exactly how many no’s in each of the boxes, and once they get that number figured out, they seal the box back up, and we carry on to the next one,” Howell explained.
Several tables are set up, each with a “yes” and a “no” basket and an “overvote” and “undervote” basket.
Teams of opposite parties verify the count for each vote. An undervote indicates where no oval was filled in on the ballot question, and an overvote is when both “yes” and “no” were filled in.
“That’s just a way to be very precise about every ballot and how it was cast in every precinct in Shawnee County,” Howell said.
Some election workers said they’ll be staying “as long as it takes” to get the recount done, each swapping out shifts and taking a 30-minute lunch break.
George Kearns from Wakarusa said it’s been a “long couple of weeks” following the election.
“There’s a lot building up to the election and then through Election Day — and then this last-minute count has made it even more stressful,” Kearns said.
Shawnee County is one of nine Kansas counties recounting the vote. The eight other counties include Crawford, Douglas, Harvey, Jefferson, Johnson, Lyon, Sedgwick and Thomas counties.
Whitney Tempel, a spokesperson for the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, said a bond of $119,644 was provided and accepted Monday.
Counties have five days after a bond is accepted to recount the vote, which means Saturday would be the deadline to complete the recount.
For larger counties, like Johnson County, it could take a few more days to go through hundreds of thousands of ballots cast.
Johnson County election workers first had to sort through 256,869 ballots that were cast before recounting began Thursday.
“I won’t say frustrated. I’m exhausted,” Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman said in a press conference Tuesday. “A lot of the folks that have been working for this election are exhausted.”
Assistant County Manager Joe Waters estimated Johnson County’s recount will be completed by 4 p.m. Friday.
However, in smaller counties, like Lyon County, election officials have confirmed that they’ve completed their recount.
According to Lyon County Clerk Tammy Vopat the county hand counted just over 9,800 ballots, and one ballot had a discrepancy that was attributed to “human error.” The recount was completed Tuesday night.
Vopat said they have had their equipment for several years, and she was very comfortable attributing the discrepancy to human error.
In Shawnee County, Howell said the goal for Wednesday was to get about 25% of the recount done. Howell said he expects to wrap up by Friday or Saturday.
“We think it could take as late as Friday or Saturday, but it’ll certainly take two or three days to get well into it,” he said.
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