THAYER — Some rural voters at the Thayer polling location received city ballots, and election officials will determine what impact that will have on the Thayer city election.
Neosho County Attorney Linus Thuston said Tuesday afternoon that he talked with Neosho County Clerk Heather Elsworth and County Counselor Seth Jones after Elsworth notified him about the problem. He said they would determine the impact after the polls closed and they could compare results.
Thuston said there was no indication the problem was intentional, but was the result of anomalies created when the state cut election funding and consolidated polling places.
“Something like this happens in every election across the state,” he said, adding that it is inevitable, but often gets noticed before an incorrect ballot is cast.
“The ballot box is one of the most sacred places of American government,” he said.
Thuston said election officials could not open the ballot box to keep separate ballots that may have been cast in error from those cast afterwards. He would not disclose the number of ballots involved, and did not know what time the problem was first discovered.
Officials do not know who voted which way, but they can compare the number of Thayer city voters to the number of Thayer city ballots cast. If the city ballots out-number the city voters, the difference may not be enough to change the outcome of the election.
Michelle Sevar and William Vining are running for mayor of Thayer. City council candidates are unopposed, but write-in candidates could be a factor in the election.
Thayer area residents are also voting in the Cherryvale school district board election, but Thuston said the ballots should not affect the school election.
The polling location at Thayer City Hall handles voters from the city of Thayer, Shiloh Township and the H-9 and H-13 precincts of Chetopa Township.
At one time, Chanute had six polling locations that have now been consolidated down to three. Poll workers Tuesday also began using a card-scanning system of computerized voter registration checks and signatures, but Thuston said that does not seem to be related to the Thayer issue.
He said the problem seemed to be an error at the polling worker level, rather than with county election officials. Thuston said the poll workers are seasoned, but sometimes errors happen.
Elsworth has been in office three weeks as county clerk since the resignations of Randal Neely and deputy election clerk Rhonda Coronado in October.
Neosho County voters in other areas also decided contests for an Erie school board at-large position, Erie and St. Paul city council seats, and the Southwind Extension board.
Neosho County Commissioners, acting as the board of canvassers, will canvass the ballots Nov. 18. That is the state deadline, and Commission Chair Gail Klaassen said they chose that date in case there were any problems.