Officials: Finney County clerk violated election law

Voters casting their ballots

FINNEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Ballots in Finney County included one county treasurer candidate’s professional title in last week’s primary, which is forbidden by state election law.

“I don’t remember anything exactly like this happen before,” said Bryan Caskey, Director of Elections for the state of Kansas.

It’s a mistake that Caskey says should have been caught by the county clerk, Elsa Ulrich.

Kelly Drees, a candidate for Finney County Treasurer, included the title of CPA next to her name when filing her paperwork to be on the ballot.

State law says it is illegal to include a candidate’s professional title, degree or other “symbol of accomplishment” on the ballot.

“The county election officer,” said Caskey, “the county clerk in this case, is responsible for printing the ballots within Finney County, so yes, that is a mistake that should have been caught by the county election office.”

We reached out to Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office to find out what kind of education had been done on the law. We were told the issue came up earlier in the year in response to congressional candidate Roger Marshall, — who wanted to include his title of “doctor.”

Kobach’s office held a conference back in May for all county clerks to inform them of the law and sent the information to those who didn’t attend.

The violation will not change the results of the election.

“There was an election,” said Caskey. “[The voters] had their say, there’s no authority to have a revote. What is allowed is that a person could file an objection.”

If an objection is filed, the county elections board could hold a hearing, but the results of the primary would still stand

“Nowhere in the law does any entity have the authority to order a new election,” said Caskey.

Finney County clerk Elsa Ulrich refused to speak on camera. She said she did not realize including CPA on the ballots was against the law. When asked if it was her job as clerk to know, she declined to comment. We then reached out to the county administrator, who also refused to comment.

We also spoke with other county clerks in the state who attended the conference in May. They confirmed they were instructed not to include professional titles on ballots and that it violated the law.

Kelly Drees won the primary by a wide margin.

We have tried to reach her but have not received any comment from her yet on the issue. She did make comments on social media saying that she was unaware of the rule and apologizes for the mistake.

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