Maize voter explains confusion at polling location
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With unprecedented participation in Tuesday’s Kansas primary, some polling locations saw long lines that had some voting two-plus hours after polls closed at 7 p.m. and led to confusion with at least one voting site. The rule is that anyone in line by 7 p.m. has the right to cast their ballot, no matter how long the wait, but they can’t go elsewhere to do it.
In an apparent attempt to alleviate the long-wait situation, the Sedgwick County Election Office acknowledged poll workers at a voting location in Maize made a mistake. It was a situation that raised a lot of questions Tuesday night.
While there wasn’t an order to leave, about 20 minutes before polls closed, a pair of election workers at the Maize Recreation Center incorrectly told voters waiting in line they could go to another polling location nearby.
Eyewitness News spoke with a few people who were in line at the time the erroneous instruction happened. Voters at the Maize polling place said they don’t think the workers were intentionally trying to confuse people.
“[The worker] said, ‘our systems are running slowly. If you would like to go, you can go to Life Church and vote there, or you can continue to wait here, just don’t know how quickly we’ll be able to get you guys through,’” voter Jessica Beal recalled. “There were a couple of people that were pretty upset. Some people did leave, a good number of people stayed, and people kept coming in after that, too.”
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Angela Caudillo said after receiving the wrong information from two election workers, about 70 voters chose to go down the street to Life Church and cast a provisional ballot.
“That decision was wrong. We have spoken to the election workers, and we will take that as an internal employment matter,” Caudillo said.
A spokesperson for Sedgwick County sent the following statement in response to what happened Tuesday night in Maize:
“The Election Office is just as concerned as the general public about fair elections and wants to do a thorough job looking into this matter. For that reason, we don’t want to rush to judgment or release information that is incomplete, as we are still continuing to examine. We ask the public’s patience while we give this matter the scrutiny it deserves.”
Beal said election workers were trying to get everyone out of the heat, an effort waiting voters appreciated.
“It was nice that they let people inside. Just kind of wish they would’ve done it sooner, but it was okay. It helped other people out,” she said.
The Sedgwick County Election Office employed between 500 and 600 poll workers for the county’s 81 polling locations. Voters including Beal said their location was understaffed.
“My hope is people can be kind to one another, maybe get out there and volunteer on Election Day so that there are more people, there’s more hands on-deck” Caudillo said. “If they are experiencing issues, more people can assist.”
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