Good Luck

November 20th, 2019

EARL WATT • Leader & Times


In a classic case of “every vote counts,” Tuesday’s local election indicated just how important each vote can make a difference.

With almost all votes counted, Mike Brack had a two-vote lead over incumbent Cliff Abbot and a 10-vote lead over incumbent Steve Helm for the final spot on the USD No. 480 School Board.

Four seats were on the ballot, and the top three positions were claimed by Kathy Fitzgerald (1,185 votes), Sarah Mersdorf-Forman (721 votes) and Naomi Vargas (661 votes).

With 34 provisional ballots left to be counted, the small difference could change the final outcome.

The determination on which provisional ballots will and will not be counted will take place at 9 a.m. Monday during the final canvass of the votes.

The Liberal City Commission also has a razor-thin margin for the final seat.

Incumbent Tony Martinez has a two-vote lead over challenger Jimmy Holman, 574-572.

Three seats were open, and the top two positions went to Ron Warren (893 votes) and Chris Linenbroker (608 votes).

When the provisionals are presented to the canvassing board, which is the Seward County Commission, they will determine which of the 34 will be counted, but according to Seward County Clerk Stacia Long, those decisions are more than just the opinion of the canvassing board.

“There are laws that govern when a  provisional should and should not count,” Long said. “I give the canvassing board the guidelines and the recommendation to count or not count based on the reason.”

When Long provides that information to the board, the ballots are sealed, and no one knows how those individuals voted.

Several factors lead to a provisional ballot with the most common being a change of address.

“Most of what we see, people have changed their address and forgot to re-register,” Long said. “If they move within the community to a different precinct, we want to be sure they get the correct ballot. For example, if someone in Liberal moves to the country, they should not vote on city races. To get the correct ballot, we would check the map and give them the correct ballot.”

By statute, ballots from a voter who changed address but was given the proper ballot are counted.

Some votes, however, may not be counted by law.

“Some people are not registered and want to vote,” Long said. “I explain registration ended on Oct. 15, but we allow them to vote provisionally, and they get registered after the election. The law requires voters to be registered prior to the election, and those ballots are not to be counted. That’s what I recommend to the canvassing board.”

Sometimes a clerical error could also lead to a provisional ballot.

“I also have voters who believe they are registered or registered online,” Long said. “In the event there is an error in the database, we can check to see if we misspelled their name or if the date of birth was wrong. For those, we have them vote provisional, staff will check them, and see if we had clerical error. Then, those submitted to canvass as clerical errors are recommended they be counted.”

Of the 34 provisional ballots, Long believed that if statutes are followed, 29 of those ballots will be counted by the canvassing board at 9 a.m. Monday in the Seward County Commission Chamber.

“During the canvass, the board will decide which ones to count, and I will put them in groups to count and do not count,” Long said. “Then we will scan them through and present the results to board of canvassers, and they take action to approve the abstract.”

In a close election where many registered voters didn’t participate, Long said the outcome might not have been close if more people voted.

“For anybody who decided to stay home, I would like to ask them, ‘What would you have voted, and would it have changed the outcome if you did?’” Long said.

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