Voting in western Kansas county delayed by ballot misprint

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — In-person absentee voting is scheduled to resume Thursday in one western Kansas county after being shut down for three days because of a ballot error.

The incorrect ballot listed a Kansas Senate 40th District race as a U.S. Senate race. The names of the candidates, Republican incumbent Sen. Rick Billinger, of Goodland, and Democrat Larry Dreiling, of Hays, were correct on the ballot.

The U.S. Senate race between Democrat Barbara Bollier and GOP Rep. Roger Marshall was listed correctly.

Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus said she was notified of the incorrect ballots Friday and decided the only option was to call off in-person voting, which was scheduled to start Monday. She contacted the candidates, the Kansas secretary of state’s office and legal counsel before making the decision.

Correct ballots arrived Wednesday, so advance voting will begin Thursday, with more hours, including the addition of voting on the next two Saturdays before Nov. 3, to accommodate those who had to be turned away.

Advance ballots with the mistake were also mailed to 3,881 voters, the secretary of state office said.

“I sincerely apologize for the error,” Maskus told The Associated Press. “I am sorry some people were inconvenienced and have to come back, but we have dealt with it and we’re ready to start the process again.”

All ballots — including those with the mistake — will be counted, said Maskus, who noted the positions of the candidates’ names and the ovals in front of them were correct and were not changed on the reprinted ballots.

Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, confirmed the incorrectly labeled ballots can be counted. She said people voting by mail also can use the ballots with “the typo.”

Billinger, the GOP state Senate candidate, said he is sure the mix-up was an honest mistake and he doesn’t think it will have any impact on the outcome of the race.

“The people who were going to vote for me or the other guy still will,” he said. “Our names are correct and in the right place so I don’t think it’s going to cause much confusion.”

Dreiling, the Democrat, is a former reporter and TV anchor in Hays. He did not return a phone call Wednesday but told The Kansas City Star “The reporter in me asks, is this corruption? Is this just plain stupid incompetence?”

He expressed concern the error also could impact the race between Bollier and Marshall “and the whole integrity of the process here in the county.”

Schwab said Tuesday a legal challenge to the race’s outcome is likely only if the margin of victory is close.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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