Special Election Gives Voters Affected In Ballot Mix-Up A Do-Over

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee county's board of canvassers made the decision for a special election to be held on Tuesday, August 24, giving some Topeka voters a re-do in the wake of a ballot mixup at one polling place.

A poll worker at Light of the World Christian Church handed out the wrong ballot to hundreds of voters on primary election day last Tuesday, which meant they voted in the wrong Kansas House District Primary.

"There are a great number of people who were not given the opportunity to vote on the candidates that they should've been," Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter said.

A total of 432 were cast that day at Light of the World, including 315 Republicans and 111 Democrats. There were also six provisional ballots.

Despite concerns from some at the meeting that a re-election would give some voters the chance to change their mind, the board moved forward with the proposed special election.

"Everyone should be entitled to do this again. We gotta do-over," Mary Thomas, who sits on the board, said.

Board members Shelly Buhler and H. R. Cook, general manager of the Kansas Expocentre agreed.

The decision allows voters who cast a ballot on primary day at Light of the World Christian Church to re-vote. That includes both Democrats and Republican ballots in the 52nd and 56th District House races.

Voters will see a new ballot. Depending on party affiliation, the races back on the ballot in the special election are the 52nd District Democratic race (Ted Ensley running uncontested) and Republican race (Shanti Gandhi, Dick Jones and Scott Hesse); the 56th District Democratic race (Virgil Weigel running uncontested) and Republican race (LaVern Abney and Janet Mitchell)

The re-vote could change the outcome the 52nd District House.

When counting ended last Tuesday, Dr. Shanti ghandi led fellow candidate Dick Jones in the Republican primary by just 41 votes. After provisional ballots were counted today, that margin remained.

The third candidate in the race, Scott Hesse, will remain on the special ballot.

"The reelection is basically going to be between two of us, basically," Gandhi said, referring to him and Jones. "Because all the people that voted for the third candidate [Hesse], they're gonna say, 'Hey, my candidate is not gonna win. Let me see who I can pick up,'" he said.

Gandhi also expressed concern that, with the primary race still ongoing, the winner will lose two weeks of campaigning for the fall.

Jones said he takes issue with one thing that didn't happen at the meeting.

"The fact that nobody has taken ownership of that mistake. Nobody has apologized for the mistake, he said."

But Jones affirmed his desire to keep up his campaign.

"I'm as interested in running this campaign as I ever was and I'm sure Dr. Gandhi is," Jones said. "He's got something to loose, I've got something to win."

The re-election wasn't an outcome he would have wanted, but one he expected after the snafu, he said.

Ensley Deiter said the election commission will send a letter to the 432 voters to advise them of the special election, the polling place, and opportunities for advance voting.