Unprecedented turnout leads to Election-Day issues in Sedgwick County
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An unprecedented 43 percent of Sedgwick County voters turned out for Tuesday’s primary election. For some voters, that meant longer-than-usual wait times at some polling locations.
Short of saying there was a staffing shortage, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Angela Caudillo said the county had an unprecedented voter turnout and election workers addressed several issues as they were made aware of them. This included long lines, electioneering and mistakes by polling workers.
Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse shared a video from Tuesday, showing a long line at the Linwood Rec Center in south Wichita after polls closed at 7 p.m. Some didn’t get to vote until after 9 p.m.
“It was mainly just making sure that people stayed in line, no matter how long it took,” Cruse said. “I know the folks at Linwood think their polls closed around 9:30.”
The Sedgwick County Election Office employed between 500 and 600 people to work at the 81 polling locations around the county.
STAFFING 🗳 Some Sedwick County voters experienced long lines. #SCElectionOffice had 500-600 poll workers on Tuesday.— Lily Wu - KWCH (@KWCHLily) August 3, 2022
So, we asked: “Do you feel like you were understaffed yesterday?”
More from @SedgwickCounty Election Commissioner on @KWCH12 at 5 & 6pm.#campaign2022 #kwch12 pic.twitter.com/76XWLvXSMQ
“This is unprecedented. We did have shortages in a couple of sites. As soon as we’re made aware of shortages, if we have additional election workers and they’re requested, we do send them out. And we did deploy several,” Caudillo said.
At 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the election office issued an advisory regarding the Maize Recreation Center polling location. As many as 150 voters were incorrectly told by two poll workers to go to another location with 20 minutes before polls closed. About 70 of those voters showed up a few blocks away at Life Church and cast a provisional ballot.
“That decision was wrong, that decision was not made in conjunction with my office,” Caudillo said. “And the election workers had no authority to make that decision.”
Sedgwick County commissioners will wait to hear the election commissioner’s primary election report in two weeks.
“The county commissioners want to provide all the support that she needs in order to be able to do her job, that we have a fair and accurate election,” Sedgwick County Commission Chair David Dennis said. The election commissioner will debrief this primary as she looks ahead to the general election in November.
“Voter engagement, voter participation, voter turnout went right,” Dennis said. “If there’s anything we can do to alleviate the long lines, we’ll look at that.”
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who appointed Caudillo to her role as Sedgwick County Election Commissioner said voting locations in Sedgwick and Johnson counties were understaffed. Schwab’s office said in addition to there not being enough workers, more people than expected called in sick. That left counties trying to find replacement poll workers at the last minute.
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