ACLU of Kansas wants Ellis County voters to know misprinted ballots will be counted

About 3,800 misprinted ballots were mailed to voters in Ellis County. Some of the voters who received the ballots are confused about whether they should still be used. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas wants the Ellis County clerk to provide direction directly to voters who received misprinted ballots.

Clerk Donna Maskus says she has done everything she can to mitigate the problem.

The county mailed about 3,800 ballots that labeled a Kansas Senate race as the U.S. Senate race before realizing the mistake, then shut down advanced voting for several days to reprint corrected ballots. Political candidates and election officials have taken a wait-and-see approach with the situation, hoping that neither the state nor federal race is decided by a slim margin.

Lauren Bonds, legal director for ACLU of Kansas, said the ACLU has heard from Ellis County voters who are confused about what they should do with their misprinted ballots. Bonds said Maskus should try to contact the voters directly and post information on the clerk’s website.

Voters need to know their misprinted ballots will count, Bonds said, that they shouldn’t be waiting on a replacement ballot, and that they should drop their ballots off at the election office or dropbox at this point because of concerns with mail delivery. Voters also may go to the clerk’s office and exchange their ballot for a corrected one.

Bonds said the clerk’s communication should focus on “making those options clear, and very clearly saying that your ballot’s fine, you should vote it, you should vote as soon as possible.”

Maskus said she didn’t attempt to contact voters because so many of them received the misprinted ballot. She said she immediately “faced up” to the mistake — she was one of three people in her office who looked at the ballot’s text and didn’t catch the error before it printed — and has tried to get the word out through news media.

“The voters have been very genuine with the situation, and very understandable,” Maskus said. “I feel real bad that the situation has happened, but we are dealing with it and moving forward.”

She said she would consider updating information on her website.

The clerk’s office also has extended hours for early voting, including from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Because the ovals on the misprinted ballots align with the corrected ones, all of the ballots will be tabulated by machine, Maskus said.