Editorials

Voting machine issues unacceptable in Johnson County

JoCo Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker explains why some new voting machines had issues

By noon The Kansas City Star had received two reports of problems with the new voting machines for Johnson County political elections. JOCO Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker explains how the two reported problems were fixed.
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By noon The Kansas City Star had received two reports of problems with the new voting machines for Johnson County political elections. JOCO Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker explains how the two reported problems were fixed.

Scattered problems with new voting machines in Johnson County Tuesday were a serious disappointment. Election officials must make sure these issues are resolved before November.

The county spent more than $10 million to buy the new machines, which provide a paper audit trail in case of any disputed outcome. The county’s old machines were outdated and needed to be replaced, and we have no quarrel with that decision.

But some of the new machines simply didn’t work Tuesday, leading some voters to give up and go to work. Poll workers were seemed unsure of a backup plan. Some voters think ballots may have been miscast.

Other voters were confused because at least one race extended to a second screen. That confusion extended voting times for some. There also reports of registration problems.

Johnson County Election Commission Ronnie Metsker called the hiccups minor. “We did have a slow start in some places,” he admitted.

Some problems are probably unavoidable whenever new technology is deployed. But Johnson County could have clearly developed an emergency plan to make sure voters could cast ballots easily and quickly.

It’s a concern because the general election in November is likely to bring a far heavier turnout. The last thing Johnson County wants or needs is long delays that could affect the outcome of close elections for governor, Congress, and seats in the state legislature.

Metsker in particular must make sure all conceivable problems are addressed. In 2016, Johnson County faced enormous problems in counting ballots and reporting results. That experience cannot be repeated in 2018.

Metsker, a former chairman of the Johnson County Republican Party and a former state legislator, was appointed to his position by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. That fact alone worries some voters in Johnson County.

Metsker and his colleagues could go a long way to dispelling any concerns by studying Tuesday’s problems and addressing them before the general election Nov. 6. Johnson Countians — all voters — deserve a voting process that’s simple, quick, easy, and fair.

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