Kansas seeks to block release of voting machine paper tapes

Voting (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – The top election official in Kansas has asked a Sedgwick County judge to block the release of voting machine tapes sought by a Wichita mathematician who is researching statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts in the November 2014 general election.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that the records sought by Wichita State University mathematician Beth Clarkson are not subject to the Kansas open records act, and that their disclosure is prohibited by Kansas statute. His response, which was faxed Friday to the Sedgwick County District Court, was made public Monday.

Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, filed the open records lawsuit as part of her personal quest to find the answer to an unexplained pattern that transcends elections and states.

She wants the hard-copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model.

Clarkson said in an email she did not have any comment about Kobach’s answer to her lawsuit yet because she hadn’t done more than skim it.

“I don’t see anything in there about why I shouldn’t be allowed access other than there is no official channel for private citizens to get access to those records. Therefore, no access allowed,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate “a statistically significant” pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct. The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling.

In response to her lawsuit, Kobach also contended he is not the custodian of records kept by the Sedgwick County Elections Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

Lehman told a Sedgwick County District Court judge in a separate filing last week that production of the tapes would be “unnecessarily burdensome” because the material cannot be easily copied. Each person’s vote in the 2013 election takes up about 27½ inches of the electronic machine’s paper trail. Each roll from the 2014 election is 385 feet long, and stored in 42 boxes that are not segregated by precinct or voting district.

Kobach and Lehman also both argued in their separate filings that the identical issues were presented by Clarkson and were previously rejected in a 2013 open records lawsuit that she had filed.

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