Kansas election officials begin certifying results with several races too close to call

By: - November 9, 2020 3:38 am

Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, said election results won’t be certified until after the counties and state canvass results. (June 30 photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — As election officials finish counting ballots cast during the 2020 election, counties across Kansas are turning Monday to the outlier ballots with mismatched signatures, ID issues and more.

Election results in Kansas are not official until counties canvass the results of state and national races. The canvass occurs in the weeks following the election beginning the Monday after Election Day.

When officials meet for the county canvass, they review all mail-in and in-person ballots cast to ensure nothing out of the ordinary occurred. They also confirm and count provisional ballots.

Davis Hammet, the president of Loud Light, a youth-focused organization encouraging civic engagement in Kansas, expects a record number of provisional ballots will be counted this year.

“Plenty of provisional ballots this year are from people who requested a mail ballot and then they got antsy and went in to vote,” Hammet said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “The vast majority of these provisional ballots will be counted, but none of them that are declared provisional can be counted until the canvass.”

With several Statehouse races too close to call, this year’s county canvass may play an important role in determining some outcomes. Once each county canvasses, results are officially certified by the state.

While races do not often hinge on the results of the county canvass, Kansans are used to narrow margins requiring a careful review. In 2018, the GOP gubernatorial primary between former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer came down to a margin of 361 votes.

All 105 Kansans will conduct a canvass in the next two weeks. This year, eyes again are on Johnson County, where Hammet says provisional ballots piled up during advanced voting and on Election Day.

“Two weeks after the election, you might have thousands of more votes, for example, in Johnson County,” Hammet said. “We’re probably going to see 9,000 or 10,000 more votes added at that point.”

In-house District 16, Democrat Linda Featherston and Republican Rashard Young will anxiously await the results of the canvass. Featherston leads Young by one vote.

In Overland Park, Democratic incumbent Jennifer Day trails Republican Terry Frederick by just nine votes for House District 48.

Johnson County will meet for the county canvass at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Several other legislative races outside Johnson County could come down to the canvass, as well. In Hutchinson, Democrat incumbent Jason Probst leads Republican challenger John Whitesel by six votes for House District 102.

Candidates may request a recount after the canvass.

Once counties have finalized their results, the Kansas State Board of Canvassers meets to make the final review and determine the result of national and state elections. The board is composed of Gov. Laura Kelly, Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

In the three days following the State Board of Canvassers meeting, people can object to the results of the election if they feel it was not conducted appropriately, Hammet said.

“All of this takes us to basically the very, very end of November,” Hammet said. “It’s usually right before Dec. 1 that we finally know the real certified results of the election.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.