After misspeaking during canvass meeting, Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker issues clarification on ballots cast by unaffiliated voters

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker issued a clarification about how provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters will be treated Monday.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker issued a clarification statement Monday afternoon after misspeaking about the status of a collection of provisional ballots cast by voters who had not declared a party affiliation when they went to the polls Tuesday.

In remarks to the canvassing board Monday, Metsker noted that there had been a voting location where a poll judge had incorrectly told a group of unaffiliated voters that they had to fill out a provisional ballot. Under state law, unaffiliated voters can declare for a party on primary election day and cast a standard ballot in that race. Speaking to the canvass board, Metsker appeared to indicate that every unaffiliated voter who had incorrectly been directed to fill out a provisional ballot by the poll judge would have their votes counted — whether they filled out a party registration form or not.

That left representatives of the GOP gubernatorial campaigns under the impression that all of the provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters would be counted.

Later in the day, however, Metsker issued a statement saying that only those voters who had filled out the party affiliation card would have their votes counted.

“This morning, the Board of County Canvassers voted to count 57 provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters who were mistakenly instructed to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day,” read Metsker’s statement. “I recommended those provisional ballots be counted because those voters completed a voter registration application, which includes a party affiliation declaration, as a part of the provisional ballot process.”

Those 57 voters had their votes recommended for inclusion in the final vote totals in the “should be perfect” category on the Election Office’s summary of challenged/provisional ballots.

It appears additional unaffiliated voters who were misdirected by the poll judge to cast provisional ballots will not be counted because they did not complete a party affiliation form. Those voters were included in the Election Office’s “party affiliation not declared” category, which had 35 ballots in it. It’s not clear how many of those 35 ballots were cast by people who had received bad instructions from the poll judge.

The Johnson County Election Office’s decision to recommend against inclusion of those ballots differs from the Sedgwick County Election Office’s recommendation on the same matter. Sedgwick County’s canvass board voted to include 14 ballots cast by unaffiliated voters who did not end up declaring for a party.

The current tally on the Kansas Secretary of State’s website has Kobach leading Colyer by 206 votes — 127,666 to 127,460. The Johnson County Election Office is set to reveal results of the additional 1,451 provisional votes to be included in the tally today at 4 p.m.