County officials at odds over election office budget

WICHITA, Kan. Sedgwick County commissioners and the election commissioner are at odds over who should control the election office budget.

There is currently a budget battle brewing between the election office and the county commission that is being heard in the statehouse with a bill that would transfer the authority over the budget from the election commission to the county commissioners.

"We have a concern that we have an individual in our county that is controls a large part of our budget for election activities and is not over the control or authority of county commission," said Sedgwick County Commissioner, Dave Unruh.

Sedgwick County is one of four large counties in the state where the top election official is appointed by the Kansas Secretary of State.

The Election Commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, was not available for an interview, but did speak about the bill to a senate committee the day before.

She said when she was appointed to the position, "Because of the understaffing and starvation budget, we had many issues including incorrect ballots being sent out, and results being reported in the wee hours of the morning”

"One of the other things that really concerns us is the testimony that she had, significantly she says that the Sedgwick County Commission is looking to disenfranchise voters, that we take very personally," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Chairman, David Dennis.

Lehman said in testimony, "…the election commissioners need to be free to do our jobs without the interference of local partisan elected officials who are not election experts.”

What's different for more than 100 other Kansas counties is that their elections are done by county clerks who are elected and do follow county budgets.