Olathe School Board race still too close to call days after election

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OLATHE, Kan. — A closely watched school board race in Olathe continues to draw interest past election day.

The race is still too close to call but with each passing day Julie Steele widens her lead on Jennifer Gilmore in the District 3 race.

Gilmore had the advantage on election night but the counting of mail-in ballots have reversed that result.

Gilmore, a regular presence at meetings of the Olathe Board of Education, did not give a public comment during Thursday night’s meeting. She also did not respond to request for comment on Friday.

Her opponent, Steele, released a statement saying in part that “While her opponent has not retracted her claim of victory, Julie Steele recognizes that this race is entirely too close to call and she looks forward to continued participation in the Democratic process of ensuring that every single vote is counted.”

Fred Sherman, Johnson County’s Election Commissioner, explains why vote votes continue to change.

“We also have additional mail ballots that we are counting because people either dropped off their mail ballots at a polling site. Or they dropped them off at one of the drop-off boxes we have. And we’re also receiving mail ballots by the mail system, the U.S. Postal System. And under Kansas law any ballot that has a valid postmark by 7 pm on election day can arrive up to three days after election day and still be counted in the total,” Sherman said.

“Obviously the anxiety with some of the close races has kind of evoked some emotions on both sides of the spectrum. but we’re working through the process,” Sherman said.

At the Thursday school board meeting, Brian Connell, an expected winner of a board seat who is also politically aligned with Gilmore, said their critical messaging on the school board on COVID-19 related rules pushed forward the high voter turnout.

“Our entire community is engaged at a level unseen in the 15 years since I’ve been here. Record voter turnout this week with the schools at the center of all those issues. And this isn’t just Olathe or Johnson County. It is nation-wide,” Connell said.

The focus on elections continues next week with the Johnson County Board of Elections going through provisional ballots and likely voting to certify next Tuesday.

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